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Brahmaputra

Environment

Asia’s Great Rivers: Climate Crisis, Pollution Put Billions of Lives at Risk

Some of the world’s largest rivers, such as Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong and Indus, begin in Asia, and their health is inextricably linked to that of the continent.

Hong Kong: The year is 2100. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region — the world’s “Third Pole” — are vanishing as the planet warms, the ice that once fed the great rivers of Asia is all but lost, and with it much of the water needed to nurture and grow a continent.

Further stressed by extreme heatwaves, erratic monsoons, and pollution, the waterways are in crisis and the lives of hundreds of millions hang in the balance. Access to clean water, now more precious than oil, is a preserve of the rich and has become a resource so valuable that people — and nations — are willing to fight for it.

This apocalyptic vision is the continent’s future if nothing is done to limit global warming, scientists and environmentalists warn.

“If urgent climate action is not taken rapidly, starting today, and current emission trends continue unabated, it is starting to look conceivable that this will entail grave threats to all of humanity as we know it,” says David Molden, director general of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The 2015 Paris agreement saw nations commit to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as a way of curbing the worst impacts of global warming.

A lower cap of 1.5C was set, only as a goal for nations to work towards. But this year’s Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) Assessment Report says unless it is met — two-thirds of the region’s glaciers will be lost by the end of the century.

Running from Afghanistan to Myanmar, the HKH region takes in the Tibetan Plateau, and the Himalaya, Hindu Kush, and Karakoram mountain ranges.

Functioning as a vast water tower, some of the world’s largest and most important rivers, including the Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong and Indus, begin here.

Its health is inextricably linked to that of the continent: Some 1.65 billion people directly rely on these waters — for their lives and livelihoods.

But tens of millions more rely on the agriculture, hydropower, and industries the rivers fuel.

“This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” ICIMOD’s Philippus Wester explains, adding that alongside glacier melt, there will be increased risk of floods, droughts, landslides and avalanches.

But many in Asia are already living this dystopian future.

In the southern Indian city of Chennai, 2019 brought a drought so severe reservoirs ran dry. Residents were forced to queue for water from government tanks or pay black-market prices. In some cases, desperation led to violence.

Northern India was lashed by flooding as the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers burst their banks, with more than 100 reported dead and many more displaced. In Pakistan, thousands of glacial lakes have formed, with its mountain people facing the threat of at least 30 bursting.

In parts of China, villagers must choose between paying a premium for bottles or risking their health with the potentially contaminated stream or river water.

More than half the world’s population lives in Asia, but there is less fresh water available per person there than on any continent, according to the UN, often leaving the most vulnerable at risk.

“Climate change is rapidly diminishing our access to clean water, which will have a devastating impact on human health, access to food, and sanitation, radically reshaping communities and cities,” Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, tells AFP.

“As always, the poorest people are and will be the most affected.”

Asia’s rivers feed the continent’s breadbaskets and rice bowls — the Indus, Yangtze, and Yellow basins rely heavily on meltwater to irrigate agriculture that helps sustain not only those that live there, but national economies too.

Any change — either the initial surge of meltwater — or the later drastic decline in river flow could cause catastrophic food shortages, with Molden warning the worst-case scenario, if nothing is done to combat global warming, would be “starvation and conflict”.

Despite proclamations that we are in “the Asian Century”, there are fears lack of proper planning for the coming water crisis may stifle the economic dreams of a rapidly growing region.

Debra Tan, director of the NGO China Water Risk, adds: “Asia faces a triple threat in terms of water because 1) some parts — including China and India — have very limited water resources to develop, 2)climate change exacerbates scarcity, and 3) our cities and populations are clustered along vulnerable rivers.” Every key industry on the continent — from electronics and automobiles to clothing and agriculture — requires water but few use the resource judiciously.

Irrigation methods are often inefficient and crops grown can be water-intensive, while many industries still discharge untreated water in the rivers with few facilities for recycling.

Tan insists: “If the risks are not managed well, they will not only have detrimental consequences to billions of livelihoods but also to trillions of dollars of economic growth.”

Mass migration away from most affected areas will put intense pressure on other towns and cities.

This may exacerbate tensions in a conflict-prone area — both within and between countries, Wester says.

In a 2008 report, Goldman Sachs hailed water as the “the petroleum for the next century”, underlining fears its scarcity will lead to unrest.

Indigenous no-state people

Our brains control pain perception

Washington: Pain perception is essential for survival, but how much something hurts can sometimes be amplified or suppressed: for example, soldiers who sustain an injury in battle often recall not feeling anything at the time. A new study published in Cell Reports on Tuesday honed in on the brain circuitry responsible for upgrading or downgrading these pain signals, likening the mechanism to how a home thermostat controls room temperature.

Yarimar Carrasquillo, the paper’s senior author and a scientist for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), told AFP the region responsible was the central amygdala, which according to her work appeared to play a dual role.

Studying mice, Carrasquillo and her colleagues found that the activity in neurons that express protein kinase C-delta amplified pain, while neurons that express somatostatin inhibited the chain of activity in the nerves required to communicate pain. The central amygdala isn’t completely responsible for pain itself: if it were removed entirely, then “the ‘ouch’ of things, or the protective pain, would remain intact,” said Carrasquillo.

“It seems to be sitting there waiting for something to happen,” for example responding to stress or anxiety that amplifies pain, or being forced to focus on a task that diverts your attention and reduces pain. Experiencing pain can be a vital warning to seek help, for example in a person experiencing appendicitis or a heart attack.

People who are born with insensitivity to pain, meanwhile, often do not realize the severity of injuries and are at greater risk of early death. But not all pain is useful. According to a 2012 survey, about 11 per cent of US adults have pain every day and more than 17 per cent have severe levels of pain.

Often this leads to dependence on potent painkillers like opioids, or attempting to self-medicate through counterfeit or illicit drugs which are increasingly laced with deadly fentanyl. By better understanding the brain mechanisms responsible for pain modulation, researchers hope to eventually find better cures: potentially ones that target only those forms of pain that are “bad” and not useful.

“The healthy response is you get pain, it tells you something is wrong, it heals, and the pain goes away,” said Carrasquillo. “In chronic pain, that doesn’t happen, the system gets stuck. If we can identify what makes the system gets stuck, then we can reverse it.”

Human Rights

Bangladesh hands over list of 50,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for verification

Bangladesh has handed over a new list of 50,506 Rohingyas, sheltered in different camps in Cox’s Bazar, to Myanmar for the verification in order to take them back to their homes in Rakhine.

Delwar Hossain, director general (South East Asia wing) of the foreign ministry, provided the list in a meeting with Myanmar ambassador to Bangladesh U Lwin Oo at the former’s office on Tuesday, according to sources concerned.

Earlier, Bangladesh has provided about 55,000 Rohingya names in three phases.

“You see there are 11 lakh (1.1 million) Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar. We did not give them a full list in the last year. So we are hurrying a bit in providing the list now,” foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at his office on Tuesday.

“There are also different rules in providing the lists like those based on families, so that it gets easy for them (Myanmar) to identify. They will accept them. So, we are giving them a new list,” he said.

“About 50,000…Earlier, it was 55,000. I cannot tell you the exact figure,” he added.

About a tripartite mechanism agreed between Bangladesh, Myanmar and China to expedite Rohingya repatriation, the foreign minister said, “The meeting will be held. The Chinese ambassador is physically ill.”

However, he said, “The process is ongoing.”

Mentioning his upcoming visit to Germany and France, Dr Momen said that he will raise the Rohingya issues in both the countries. (Dhaka Tribune)

Indigenous no-state people

Bali Zoo celebrated Tumpek Kandang ritual for all its resident faunas

The Tumpek Kandang ceremony is a tribute to God of Creator and Preserver (God Shiva).

The most recent Tumpek Kandang ceremony in Bali Zoo was held on October 12. The main purpose of the ceremony was to pray for an eternal safety and a healthy state of the animals, also to hope for a disease-free condition. It was also celebrated in order to respect the meaningful bond that grow in a relationship between human and other well-beings, especially animals, which by some means, the celebration also gave hope to wildlife preservation. What have been mentioned above are essentially aligned with the mission of Bali Zoo, which always put animal preservation on top missions. With that alignment, the ceremonies that had been held at Bali Zoo always sparked joy. During the most recent ceremony, all animals were well-fed with special treats and the temple master sprinkled each of them with holy water. The special treats consisted of food and drink that symbolize a worship to Sang Hyang Rare Angon – an embodiment of Dewa Siwa (God Shiva) whose in power of all beings, notably animals.

In the Hindu philosophy, Tumpek Kandang falls once every 210 days, thus the Hindus are usually celebrating this tradition twice a year and the day always falls on Saturday. For Bali Zoo, Tumpek Kandang is a sacred tradition that has to be commemorated every half-yearly. The zoo celebrates it for the entire animals that reside in the zoo, which in total have reached more than 500 faunas.

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“The Tumpek Kandang ceremony is a tribute to God of Creator and Preserver (God Shiva). The Hindus are familiar with this ceremony as it is a solemn prayer to ask for animals’ safety, as well as to hope for disease-free and healthy animals. This ceremony is also a way to appreciate compassion towards all animals at Bali Zoo. On a different note, Tumpek Kandang is also associated with Tri Hita Karana, a Balinese philosophy of life. The philosophy teaches us three causes of well-being, one of them is Palemahan which is a Balinese word to remain care about our surroundings and that surely include animals,” said Lesmana Putra, Bali Zoo’s General Manager.

The unique vibe and colorful atmosphere of Tumpek Kandang succesfully attracted many domestic and international tourists that happened to be at Bali Zoo during the ceremony was held. They watched and fascinated by the wonderful rituals. All the employees of Bali Zoo joined the ceremony, they were all wearing their traditional Balinese attire which showed vibrant color and beautiful patterns. They were fully aware that the spirit of this ceremony is to keep the balance between human and animals since they have mutually beneficial relationship.  PTI

Indigenous no-state people

No water storage projects in Tibet, says China

China has built one and is constructing two more run-of-the-river hydro power plants on the Yarlung Zangbo River, which is known as the Brahmaputra in India, a top Chinese official told a group of visiting Indian journalists recently.

Ahead of the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in October, China has assured India that its hydropower projects on the Brahmaputra in Tibet will neither affect nor alter the volume of water downstream in India.

Admitting to construction of three dams on the Brahmaputra which originates in the Tibet plateau, China said these projects would not change the outbound quantity or quality of water flowing downstream into India.On India’s concerns over Chinese activity on the Brahmaputra, Yu Xingjun, Consul (Director General Level), Ministry of Water Resources of China, said the scale of these projects was too small to affect water volumes.

“We have completed one hydropower station on the Yarlung Tsangpo (the common name for Brahmaputra in China) and two are in the process of completion. All the three reservoirs are of a combined capacity of 1,500 MW and all are in the mainstream area of the river. These hydropower stations are small and their scale is too insignificant to alter the outbound quantity of water,” assured Xingjun, head of the Chinese team of China-India Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) on Trans-Border Rivers which had its 12th meeting in Ahmadabad this June.Chinese officials maintained that hydropower stations were meant to address local sustainability needs.

“Water consumption rate for upstream areas of the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet is less than one per cent. It is the right of the local people in the upstream areas to use the river to sustain their lives… the Chinese side holds a responsible attitude towards hydropower development and the development of areas adjoining the river’s course,” Xingjun said, allaying India’s fears.

India has had concerns around potential diversion of Brahmaputra waters by China which faces skewed water availability locally. 

Xingjun admitted, “Water management in China is imbalanced and requires us to divert water from the water-rich to the water-scarce areas. President Xi attaches top priority to water conservation, which is now at the heart of all our projects.”

Indian concerns are, meanwhile, rooted in possibilities of Chinese diverting the Brahmaputra waters towards arid areas which could mean bad news for India’s northeastern plains on account of reduced water flow or flooding.

Water is set to become a key area of engagement between India and China, which are engaged on the issue through the ELM set up in 2006. The UN estimates that by 2025, more than half of the world’s people would be residing in water-stressed areas, and a vast majority of these will be in India and China.


Hails Clean Ganga  We have a great impression of the Clean Ganga Plan in which the people and religious leaders are involved. It is a good example to mobilise the Chinese people to participate in the cleaning of local rivers. — Yu Xingjun, Consul, Chinese water ministry

by Aditi Tandon

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

Indigenous no-state people

Monsoon misery: Assam’s annual tryst with floods

If preventive measures are not taken immediately floods will cause more damage.

Flood affected villagers with their belongings travel on a boat in Katahguri village in river Brahmaputra, east of Gauhati, India, Sunday, July 14, 2019. (Photo: AP)

Flood affected villagers with their belongings travel on a boat in Katahguri village in river Brahmaputra. (Photo: AP)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Assam falls under a meteorological zone that receives excess monsoon rains
  • Brahmaputra carries a lot of water and sediments – another natural reason for floods
  • Destruction of wetlands and encroachment of plains have worsened the situation

It’s tucked away in the inside pages of national newspapers, rarely makes it to prime time TV bulletins, hardly finds mention in the national discourse on development…floods in Assam are an annual affair, rarely raising more than an eyebrow.

As sure as night follows day, floods in Assam (and in most parts of the Northeast) follow the monsoon. This year has been no different.

According to data put out by Assam State Disaster Management Authority, till July 18 the death toll has touched 27 and is likely to go up. Over 4,000 villages in 28 districts out of the state’s 33 have been affected.

Assam’s population is just over 3 crore; of this 53.5 lakh-plus people are under threat. While close to 1,000 houses have been damaged, 88 animals have been washed away. Over 16 lakh animals, including livestock have been affected. Pictures of rhinos trying to reach higher grounds at the Kaziranga National Park surfaced on Thursday.

(Photo: Reuters)

Over 2 lakh hectares of crop land have been affected by the flood waters. Infrastructure — roads, bridges, culverts – and public utilities have also taken a hit.

Floods lead to loss in human lives and the economy takes a big hit. According to Central Water Commission data (1953-2016) on average 26 lakh people are affected every year in Assam; 47 lose lives, 10,961 cattle die, Rs 7 crore worth of houses destroyed and the total damage comes up to Rs 128 crore every year.

Why is Assam flood-prone?

There are both natural and man-made causes for the annual deluge.

Most of Assam falls under a meteorological zone that receives excessive rain during the monsoon season. According to the Brahmaputra Board, a central body under the Ministry of Jal Shakti tasked to monitor and control floods, the region receives rainfall “ranging from 248 cm to 635…Rainfall of more than 40 mm in an hour is frequent and around 70 mm per hour is also not uncommon”. There have been occasions when 500 mm of rainfall has been recorded in a day.

The valley through which the Brahmaputra flows is narrow. While the river occupies 6-10 km, there are forest covers on either side. The remaining area is inhabited and farming is conducted in the low-lying areas. Overflowing rivers and flowing rapidly down the valley tend to spill over when it reaches the narrow strips.

(Photo: AP)

The zone’s topography also complicates matters. The steep slopes force the rivers to gush down to the plains.

Assam lies in a seismic zone — in fact most of the Northeast does. Frequent earthquakes and resultant landslides push soil and debris into the rivers. This sedimentation raises river beds.

According to a paper published in the International Journal for Scientific Research and Development, “Brahmaputra water contains more sediments raising river by 3 metres in some places and reducing the water carrying capacity of the river.”

Then there are man-made causes that have worsened the flood situation. Encroachment is a big issue. The population density of Brahmaputra valley was 9-29 people per sq km in 1940-41; this shot up to 200 people per sq km now, according Brahmaputra Board.

The systematic destruction of wetlands and water bodies that act as natural run-offs have aggravated the flood problem in Assam. Though embankments provide protection, most of them have not been maintained leading to breaches.

Is there a way out?

First and foremost is the need for early warning systems. There are reports that around the Assam-Bhutan border, villagers form WhatsApp groups to warn people of rising water levels.

If such people-people arrangements can work out then there is no reason why more institutionalised systems, based on technology, cannot be put in place.

(Photo: AP)

These early warning systems should be institutionalised based on scientific approach.

Wetlands and local water bodies should be revived so that the natural drainage system can act as a basin for excess water to flow. This would entail clearing human encroachments in the Brahmaputra flood plains.

Embankments should be regularly checked for breaches and systems put in place for maintenance; a first step would be to break the babu-contractor nexus that finds floods an easy way to sponge money from the system. (India Today)

Climate Change

Increasing Lightning Death needs a new policy in Bangladesh and Northeast India

 The maximum lightning incidents are attributable to climate change in the entire Indian subcontinent, central Bangladesh and Northeast India in the Brahmaputra Basin. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has recently issued a weather forecast for Assam and Meghalaya that, thunderstorm accompanied by lightning mostly occurred on March 5 and 6, 2019. The Weather Channels also predicted rain or snow accumulation in the east and Northeast India till Thursday evening. The fury of nature has been left many parts of Northeastern region of India in tatters. Incessant rainfall in most areas of Garo Hills in Meghalaya has left trails of destruction with houses, schools, and trees strewn in the aftermath of this horrific weather. While some districts of Assam and West Meghalaya have been partially affected, the districts of North and East Garo Hills in the state of Meghalaya were worst hit. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening. Deaths from lightning strikes is now one of the most discussed subjects in the country. Most of the victims are the lone breadwinners in their families. The maximum lightning incidents in the entire Indian subcontinent occur in central Bangladesh and the states of Meghalaya, West Bengal, and Assam before the monsoon season (March-May) with 40 lightning strikes per square kilometer. The data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says lightning kills more people in India than any other natural calamity. According to a 2014 NCRB report, out of 20,201 accidental deaths attributable to natural causes, 12.8 percent were due to a lightning strike. The 2014 report published by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) reported the period between March 15 to June 15, 2014, Assam experienced the highest number of thunderstorms followed by Arunachal Pradesh in March, Meghalaya in April and Tripura in May and June. During the entire period, the frequency was the highest during the night (30 percent) followed by evening (21 percent). In Bangladesh the lighting strike death toll is unbelievable. On last May 2018, 29 people died from lightning in 12 districts in 24 hours, and almost all of them are farm workers. Earlier, at least 12 people died in March, and 58 people died in April 2018 in parts of Bangladesh, according to government data. In the last two days of April last year, as many as 33 people were killed as storms swept across the country, said Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya. The number of deaths was 160 in 2015, 170 in 2014, 185 in 2013, 201 in 2012 and 179 in 2011. Lightning poses a significant threat as an increasing number of people are losing life due to the natural disaster every year, experts say. Scores of people die every year after being struck by lightning during the rainy season in Bangladesh, which runs from April to October. The officials say the numbers are exceptionally high this year. Every day 10 to 12 people are dying from a lightning strike. Authorities declared lightning strike to be a natural disaster after 82 people were killed in a single day in May 2016. Independent monitors estimated that some 349 Bangladeshis died from lightning that year. In Bangladesh, the thunderstorm usually occurs from March to May, but sometimes it takes place until October or November. Owing to a sudden change in weather, heavy rain and strong gales that originate in the Bay of Bengal, end up causing lightning strikes and loss of lives in the Bangladesh and Indian Northeast. According to a new study, the above numbers can dramatically increase if the current rate of global warming continues. As reported in the journal of Science, it is expected to see a 12% increase in lightning activity for every 1 degree centigrade (1.8 degrees F) of warming, meaning the U.S. could experience a 50% increase in strikes by the turn of the century. In affected regions, people suffer “light dumb” disorder and significantly suffer a moderate headache. Many people succumb to severe heart failures. In Bangladesh, there are records of people suffering light heart failure and neural damage. Moreover, some suffered from moderate skin irritation and headache and some with severe heart failure and neural damage disease. Is climate change responsible? Lightning emerged as a new natural disaster in the Northeast Indian states and the Bay of Bengal area. The Brahmaputra flows through the region and ends at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal. This entire region is prone to lightning because of its complex topography, killing many people every year. Studies have shown thunderstorms are very frequent during the pre-monsoon season over northeastern India and Bangladesh. They are especially distinctive by their nature and severity compared to other storms, which occur over some other regions or during some different seasons. Lightning, as well as thunder and storms, are hazardous. Mostly they appear together. Anyone can strike and kill people, and also trigger potentially devastating wildfires. Studies exploring how lightning could change with rising temperatures are few and far between, and those that have been conducted have produced wildly different results. For the current study, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, started by examining the relationship between atmospheric variables and lightning rates. They hypothesized that two factors– precipitation (the amount of water that hits the ground) and the amount of energy available to make atmospheric air rise– could predict lightning flash rate. These variables can both be used as measures of storm convection (the vertical movement of air), a process that is known to generate lightning which requires two key ingredients: water in all three states (liquid, solid and gas) and quickly rising clouds to keep the ice suspended. Next, they applied these variables to 11 different climate models, all of which assume that there will be no significant drops in greenhouse gas emissions, and found that lightning would likely increase by around 12% per 1 degree Centigrade. Since it is predicted that temperatures will be around 4°C higher at the end of the century, this means there could be a 50% increase in strikes in the US by 2100. This could potentially mean more human injuries and more wildfires since around half of all fires are started by lightning. The entire Bay of Bengal, a part of Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal are prone to lightning because of the complex topography. Studies have shown thunderstorms are very frequent during the pre-monsoon season in northeastern India and Bangladesh. They are especially distinctive by their nature and severity compared to other storms, which occur over some other regions or during some different seasons. Presently most scientists believe, with the increase in global temperature, the intensity of thunderstorms and lightning will magnify in intensity. The thundercloud formation because of excess heat over Bangladesh is resulting in thunderbolts and lightning, particularly in the regions where water bodies are high, such as Haor areas. The wind convergence occurs in active convection which is the upward movement of warm and moist air. The subsequent instability results in widespread precipitation with chances of thunderstorms. According to Prof Rashid, the temperature rose in April in Bangladesh, which has caused water to vaporize and leads to rain, clouds, and lightning. Bangladesh is witnessing increasing numbers of casualties from lightning, a natural disaster, for the last few days, mainly because of the rise in temperature that is leading to the formation of upper air circulation in the geographical region, experts say. The geographical location of Bangladesh with the Himalayas in the north, the Bay of Bengal in the south, as well as the Indian Ocean and Arabian sea in the proximity, it is adding to the creation of thunderstorms in the region. It is to be noted that Northeast India, together with Bangladesh, is one of the most thunderstorm-prone regions in the world, substantiated by Tetsuya Fujita of the University of Chicago in 1973. Fujita along with Allen Pearson had developed the Fujita Pearson Scale for measuring the damage caused by tornadoes. Of all the severe thunderstorm events in the Northeast region during the 55 years of the study period, about 30 percent of the incidents resulted from storms (nor’easters), with hail and lightning accounting for 18 percent and 10 percent of all recorded events. While severe thunderstorms can develop at any time of the year, over half of the severe thunderstorm events occurred in the region during March, April, and May, peaking during the latter months. A secondary peak in severe thunderstorm events occurs in September and is likely due to the impact of tropical cyclones or their remnants flowing from the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal. The data compiled by the ICRC on the occurrence of severe thunderstorm incidents show that they are first seen on an isolated day in February under the influence of a western disturbance, and it becomes a familiar feature during the hot afternoons of April to May to early morning hours of the next days. Summer monsoon season with 60 percent incidents is the most favored time of the year for the occurrence of lightning strikes in Assam, followed by pre-monsoon season with 32 percent of the incidents. During the 55-year study period, it was reported that 22 people died on an average per year from severe thunderstorm hazards in Northeast India. More than 60 percent of these death cases were due to lightning. In general, severe thunderstorm impacts like loss of life and injury, loss of livelihood and damage to infrastructure are significantly more on impoverished and vulnerable rural population in the western part of Assam. The total climatology of lightning activity showed that the region of the west of Assam experiences higher lightning activity. Another study published in the International Journal of Climatology in September 2015, which was carried out by Hupesh Choudhury, Partha Roy, Sarbeswar Kalita and Sanjay Sharma states that during the pre-monsoon season, the frequency of lightning is quite significant in the Northeast due to the interaction of moisture-laden wind with the complex topography of the region. The Meghalaya plateau and foothills of Patkai hill range, in particular, experience severe lightning. Iqbal R Tinmaker and Kaushar Ali of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology finds almost the same result attributed to space-time variation of lightning activity over Northeast India. They revealed lightning flash rate density is the maximum over the west of northeast India. The study, published in Meteorologische Zeitschrift in April 2012, said this high flash rate density is attributable to the topography and the geography of the region, along with the moisture availability. The 2014 report published by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the highest number of thunderstorms in each month of the storm period (March 15 to June 15, 2014) was recorded in Assam, followed by Arunachal Pradesh in March, Meghalaya in April and Tripura in May and June. During the entire period, the frequency was highest during the night (30 percent) followed by evening (21 percent). Apart from agriculture fishing is at risk condition at the time of thunderstorm and lightning and fishes were at very risk condition during TS ( thunder and storm) and lightning. Moreover, these (TS) affected agricultural production very much. For TS and lightning, agrarian land was unsuitable for agricultural production. Trees and crops were uprooted, damaged and fired. So, people lose their property and fail with their regular lifestyle. A thunderbolt struck farmers while they were working at paddy field and harvesting paddy field. Lack of Awareness It is observed, casualties are increasing because of a lack of awareness among people. We find that most illiterate and lack of knowledge about lighting as well as thunderstorm and they assume it as a supernatural phenomenon or God’s fury. Awareness is crucial to reduce the toll and its harmful impact. Routine research works involving government and NGO and government regulation are needed to mitigate the menace. Mohan Kumar Das, the senior research fellow of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said deaths from lighting could also be avoided if people take some cautious steps according to BMD. The Bangladesh government is deeply concerned about the peril of such incidents, but measures are not adequate. Moreover, Meteorologists from the developing world say lightning incidents and their impacts remain under-reported as they are sporadic, making them difficult to record. It is observed, the shortage of adequate tall trees in rural areas could be a reason for the rise in the number of deaths from lightning. So people should be aware of lightning protect forest and danger of standing under a lone high tree during bad weather. Bangladesh Government authority has recorded almost all records of lightning death, but governments in India have not done it. Despite being the most lightning-prone zone in the Northeast, Assam and Meghalaya governments do not have any separate programme to create awareness among the people about lightning and TS. The state revenue and disaster management authority do not have any independent campaign for lightning. Awareness is critical to reducing the toll and harmful impact. Routine research work with broad public awareness, government, and NGO participation, and government regulations are necessary for a safe and sound environment. The Bangladesh government is more concerned about the tragic incidents. But state governments of Assam and Meghalaya as well as Central Government in India are not profoundly involved yet. It needs an urgent policy, program, and execution at the grass-root level to address the problem. The data compiled by the ICRC on the occurrence of severe thunderstorm incidents show that they are first seen on an isolated day in February under the influence of a western disturbance, and it becomes a familiar feature during the hot afternoons of April to May to early morning hours of the next days. Summer monsoon season with 60 percent incidents is the most favored time of the year for the occurrence of lightning strikes in Assam, followed by pre-monsoon season with 32 percent of the incidents. During the 55-year study period, it was reported that 22 people died on an average per year from severe thunderstorm hazards in Northeast India. More than 60 percent of these death cases were due to lightning. In general, severe thunderstorm impacts like loss of life and injury, loss of livelihood and damage to infrastructure are significantly more on impoverished and vulnerable rural population in the western part of Assam. The total climatology of lightning activity showed that the region of the west of Assam experiences higher lightning activity. Another study published in the International Journal of Climatology in September 2015, which was carried out by Hupesh Choudhury, Partha Roy, Sarbeswar Kalita and Sanjay Sharma states that during the pre-monsoon season, the frequency of lightning is quite significant in the Northeast due to the interaction of moisture-laden wind with the complex topography of the region. The Meghalaya plateau and foothills of Patkai hill range, in particular, experience severe lightning. Iqbal R Tinmaker and Kaushar Ali of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology finds almost the same result attributed to space-time variation of lightning activity over Northeast India. They revealed lightning flash rate density is the maximum over the west of northeast India. The study, published in Meteorologische Zeitschrift in April 2012, said this high flash rate density is attributable to the topography and the geography of the region, along with the moisture availability. The 2014 report published by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the highest number of thunderstorms in each month of the storm period (March 15 to June 15, 2014) was recorded in Assam, followed by Arunachal Pradesh in March, Meghalaya in April and Tripura in May and June. During the entire period, the frequency was highest during the night (30 percent) followed by evening (21 percent). Apart from agriculture fishing is at risk condition at the time of thunderstorm and lightning and fishes were at very risk condition during TS ( thunder and storm) and lightning. Moreover, these (TS) affected agricultural production very much. For TS and lightning, agrarian land was unsuitable for agricultural production. Trees and crops were uprooted, damaged and fired. So, people lose their property and fail with their regular lifestyle. A thunderbolt struck farmers while they were working at paddy field and harvesting paddy field. Lack of Awareness It is observed, casualties are increasing because of a lack of awareness among people. We find that most illiterate and lack of knowledge about lighting as well as thunderstorm and they assume it as a supernatural phenomenon or God’s fury. Awareness is crucial to reduce the toll and its harmful impact. Routine research works involving government and NGO and government regulation are needed to mitigate the menace. Mohan Kumar Das, the senior research fellow of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said deaths from lighting could also be avoided if people take some cautious steps according to BMD. Despite being the most lightning-prone zone in the Northeast, Assam and Meghalaya governments do not have any separate program to create awareness among the people about lightning and TS. The state revenue and disaster management authority do not have any independent campaign for lightning.

by Chandan kumar Duarah

– See more at: http://southasiajournal.net/increasing-lightning-death-needs-a-new-policy-in-bangladesh-and-northeast-india/

Indigenous no-state people

Hydrological Data Sharing Leads India-China Toward Better Trans-Boundary Water Cooperation

After long efforts from diplomats, experts, activists and journalists China has agreed with request from lower riparian India and Bangladesh and the the country with headwater of Brahmaputra is providing data. “It is a positive sign towards a good trans-boundary river management. Extending cooperation will definitely lead towards better cooperation among neighbouring countries. Exchange of hydrological data and weather forecasting are very important since a trans-national river belongs to many countries. Exchange of hydrological data and weather forecasting are very important since a trans-national river belongs to many countries in the region” said Chandan Kumar Duarah, a science journalist and coservation activist based in Assam, India. Not only the Brahmaputra, five rivers originating on the third-pole, the Himalayas. They are the Yangtze, the Indus, the Mekong, the Salween, and the Ganges – rank among the world’s ten most endangered rivers, he writes in Eurasia Review.

Some science and environmental journalists had opportunitities to meet Chinese journalists and experts through the different programmes. The Thirdpole and Earth Journalism Network (EJNet) gave them opportunity to interact with Chinese counterpart and we insisted Chinese experts and journalists to work with a view to have bilateral or multilateral transboundary river management pact. Ninong Ering, a member of parliament from Arunachal, was among the first to officially acknowledge that China’s early warning helped, enabling residents of the East Siang district of Arunachal to move to higher grounds.

Despite the Chinese authorities released 9020 cumec of water on the Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet, China, due to heavy rainfall in Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam had nothing to worry. For at Pashighat, in Arunachal Pradesh, the Siang is 756 metres. And at Jonai, where the river enters Assam, the width of the river is around 4 km and hence the water level of the river would rise only 30 cm there. The Union Water Resources Ministry official said Indian experts have analysed the data shared by China and came to the conclusion that the effect may not be so strong in the country even through it was an alarming situation in China.

The early warning China issued to India in August on the rising waters of its Tsangpo river – which hit its highest level in 150 years – gave the Indian authorities enough time to prepare. Thousands of people in scores of districts in Assam and Arunachal have been affected in the latest floods, but the losses are minimal in comparison with the devastation last year, which killed 130 people and left three million people stranded.

As China informed India about heavy rain in Tibet or probable flood in downstream areas, the Indian Government informed and cautioned Arunachal Government. A senior official of the Union Water Resources Ministry said it was an unprecedented situation on the Chinese side where Tsangpo broke a 150-year record with swollen waters and hence China has shared the information with India.

Anyway, Delhi should inform or involve Assam with the process equally with Arunachal Pradesh. Assam been victim of devastating floods of every year. Thousands of hectares of land has been affected by the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. Since, vast floodplains and flood effected areas belong to Assam, the state need more time to be prepared after getting the flood warning. The annual rainfall in many parts of the northeast is much higher than the southern coastal State. The densely populated floodplains of Assam thus have to worry because of changes in land use that have impacted the micro-climate adversely.

Both India and China are fast-growing economies and technological clout, and resources that can help resolve regional and global challenges. The Himalayas are now subject to accelerated glacial thaw, climatic instability, and biodiversity loss. What a difference a year can make in China-India relations. Some Indian media houses interpreted the release of water in a wrong way that might generate panic among people in the downstream. China did not respond or reacted any allegation about release of water from any dam.

As China is exploiting minerals from Yarlung Zangbor region in Tibet, India is building dams in Arunachal Pradesh to generate huge amount of hydropower. Most of river catchment is in Arunachal Pradesh, which is controlled by India but claimed by China. The region was militarised during the 1962 war, and has since been inundated by troops, roads, airports, barracks, and hospitals. These have caused deforestation, landslides, and river pollution.

All of this development and strategic activities along the border is built on the world’s third-largest ice-pack or in biodiversity hot spots. The environmental impacts of their continued entrenchment are rarely mentioned, despite the fact that they are significant and growing. The build-up of troops on the border has displaced local ethnic groups, and they have been encouraged to give up their grazing land to make way for intensive farming. Animal habitats have decreased and clashes with wildlife like tigers and snow leopards have increased. Population transfers and agricultural intensification have even heightened the risk that antibiotic-resistant super-bugs and other toxic pollutants will seep into the world’s most diffused watershed.

China’s leading English daily, The South China Morning Post writes “Just a year ago China was being blamed for a deluge in northeastern India. Now, following its tip off about the rising waters of the Tsangpo, it is being praised for minimising the damage”. Just a year ago China was being blamed for a deluge in northeastern India. Now, following its tip off about the rising waters of the Tsangpo, it is being praised for minimising the damage. Anyway, the latest fruitful data sharing opens the door of better understanding on river, dam as well as trans-boundary river management.

Early warning is must to cope with floods and people along the Brahmaputra heaved a sigh of relief as authorities in Indian states of Assam and Arunachal geared up to face any eventualities. This simply did not happen in the preceding weeks, when people in Kerala or in Nagaland and Assam were caught off guard in some of the worst man-made disasters.

This year the Meteorological Department has been warning of a deficit monsoon and there prevailed a drought-like situation in many parts of upper Assam. In the eastern part of the Golaghat district villagers resorted to the age-old practice of Bhekulir biya (marrying of frogs) to satisfy the rain gods! When conditions were such, the news of the Dhansiri river breaking the highest flood level mark at Numaligarh in Golaghat district in the early hours of Aug 2, 2018 not only confused the weather forecasting authorities, but caught almost a million people off-guard. It was simply unprecedented.

Going by the IMD’s daily district level rainfall, there has not been unprecedented rainfall in the Dhansiri River catchment in the preceding week of August 2. Rather the unprecedented flash floods in Dhansiri and the Doyang rivers that flow through Nagaland and Assam was brought by the Doyang dam situated on the River Doyang, a tributary of the River Brahmaputra, located in Wokha district of Nagaland.

The 75 MW Doyang Hydroelectric Power Project owned by North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO)– the Central government company that owns and operates the dam wreaked havoc downstream claiming five lives as NEEPCO opened the gates of the dam.

By August 6, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority put the number of affected persons at 87,300 and 7,086 hectares of land in Golaghat district were under water. The deluge left a trail of destruction ravaging some 120 villages. Sediment and slush filled up hundreds of wetlands in the catchment.

Flood in Tran-boundary Rivers

Effected states in India has been witnessing such disasters due to most of trans-boundary rivers. The high waves of Siang (the Tsangpo or Yarlung Zangbo in China) reminded inhabitants of June, 2000 midnight when 30-feet high wave of Siang had submerged the historic township killing at least 30 people and more than 100 had gone missing. People were fast asleep and none expected flood as there was no rain. Siang is the main headwater of the Brahmaputra and it contributes at least 20-30% percent of water to the Brahmaputra. Flood and its effects are very much seen in Assam. It is the ninth largest river in the world with 19,800 cubic metre per second by discharge and the 15th longest is also one of the few rivers in the world that exhibit a tidal bore. It is said that water breaks some natural dam formed in the Himalayas and heavy water has been contributed to the Siang and flow with high waves and becomes turbulent.

It is believed that the latest turbidity of the Siang water is connected with the landslide dams that developed on the course of the river in Bayi District and rampant mining in southern China. Tensions rose when China unveiled a new mine in Lhunze, near the de facto border with India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, east of Bhutan. The mine sits on a deposit of gold, silver, and other precious metals worth up to $60 billion.

Dams on Brahmaputra or on its tributaries either in Tibet, China or in Arunachal Pradesh, India are a matter of grave concern. The study of the December 10, 2017 satellite imagery captured by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel -2 undertaken by research scholars Chintan Sheth of the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Research (NCBS) and Anirban Datta-Ray of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) had led to the conclusion that three dams were formed on the Yarlung Tsangpo, in the Bayi District of Nyingchi County of Tibet.

Downstream people in India are against building dams either in Chinese or Indian side. The lingering bitterness resurfaced late last year, when the more raucous sections of the Indian media began to buzz with a new China conspiracy story – the blackening of the Brahmaputra river in northeastern India. Seizing on a lawmaker’s allegation that Chinese excavations were releasing extraordinary levels of slag in the water, several media outlets saw in the discolouring a “sinister plot” from across the border. China and India’s geopolitical-resources rush threatens the safety of this entire river system. The new Lhunze mine’s position among the Brahmaputra’s headwaters is so precarious that its owner, Hua Yu Mining, was allowed to mine there. .” The mine is liable to be damaged by the region’s frequent earthquakes. It was suspected that any toxic leak from Lhunze flowed straight into the Brahmaputra.

An Indian television channel, Times Now, for example, claimed “exclusive” laboratory results to “expose” China’s evil design to “poison” and “divert” the river through mining and dam-building. China eventually refuted the media reports, saying an earthquake in Tibet that had caused large-scale landslides was responsible for the change of colour, a view echoed by the Indian government. This incident again revived demands for China to share hydrological data, with Indian lawmakers alleging that China was using its status as an upper riparian state to punish India.

New Delhi had then blamed China for breaking an earlier agreement to share hydrological data. In 2006, India and China had signed a pact under which China would share hydrological data from May 15 to October 15 every year for the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers, both of which originate in Tibet. The two sides renewed the agreement in memorandums of understanding signed in 2013 and in 2015. But when floods struck northeastern India last year, reports surfaced that China was not adhering to the agreement. There was speculation that China held back on the data in retaliation for the 73-day military stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Doklam near Bhutan around the same time. On its part, China said its hydrological systems were washed away by floods, as a result of which it was unable to share data.

In October-November 2017, the Siang turned dark with sediment, so much so that fish and animals were dying. As the turbidity of the river began before it entered the Indian territory, there was much speculation about Chinese activity being behind the change which prompted political leaders from the region to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to take up the matter with China. Experts, journalists and activists from Assam demanded for trans-national cooperation for agriculture, meteorology and flood mitigation and other purposes.

It is a wholly different story this year, which marked a high point in bilateral relations when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in May for an “informal summit” to reset strained ties. One of the two key pacts reached at the end of the summit requires China to provide hydrological data during the flood season from May 15 to October 15 every year, and if water levels exceed mutually agreed limits during the non-flood season.

The river had turned muddy and got cleaned by April 2018. Several scientific studies in subsequent periods held an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude on the Richter scale in Tibet as a strong reason for generating enough dirt to turn the colour of the water from crystal clear to black. It is worth mentioning here that two Indian scientists working on the Brahmaputra had found three artificial, landslide-induced dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo (the Chinese name of the Siang), containing an accumulated water of around one billion cubic metres. The dams were formed following the November 17, 2017 earthquake of 6.4-magnitude that shook the Nyingchi County of Tibet.

Virulent Siang River

The Yarlung Zangbo in Arunachal Pradesh, India turned virulent with unusually high waves in last July. But the reason behind such changes in the river, which generate the major chunk of flow of the Brahmaputra, could not be determined. The water of the river had also turned blakish with high turbidity again. The Central Water Commission (CWC) maintained that since the end of the part of July, the river is behaving such a manner and also carrying turbid water. Many residents they had such waves in the rive never in their life and were not sure of the reasons behind such phenomenon. The causes of the unusual behavior could either be man-made or natural. Last year, China clarified that it would not pollute its own river, Yarlung Yarlung or Tsangpo in Tibet.

However, the high waves of the river are confined only to river’s reaches in Pasighat area of Arunachal Pradesh and no impact of this changed behaviour of the river is felt in the downstream areas of Assam. The Yarlung Zangbo takes the name of Siang as it enters India at Geling in Upper Siang district. Two other rivers– Lohit and the Dibang –join the Siang at Kobu Chapori in Assam about 30 km downstream of Pasighat, which is about 230 km from the international border to form the mighty Brahmaputra. The unusually high waves in the Siang river have created fear among the people of the two Arunachal Pradesh districts and the administration had cautioned the people to refrain from venturing into it for fishing, swimming and other activities.

Nobody could detect the cause of this and we had been very worried with the phenomenon. The Chinese side neither react nor informed about natural or unnatural activities on their side. After around one month later China informed Delhi as well as Indian Government that it had been heavy rain in Tibet or South China region and it may cause flood in downstream areas in India. The unusal waves had been seen since July, 2018.

On August 29, 2018, China alerted India of a massive cloudburst in Tibet that forced the Chinese authorities to release more water down the Brahmaputra than at any time over the last 50 years. The discharge was measured at 9,020 cubic metres per second (cumec) at 8 a.m. on August 29 and led to huge waves on the Siang in Arunachal Pradesh. Eyewitness said the wave heights at up to four metres, uncharacteristic of a river. It gave hydrological data and flood warning to the Government of India. As soon as Delhi received these information, the concerned department sent the message to State Government of Arunachl Pradesh as it is the immediate bordering state of China.

The East Siang Deputy Commissioner (DC) Tamiyo Tatak in a circular issued on 29th of August stated that the Tsangpo river has been swelling with a discharge of 9,020 cumec on August 29th morning, which broke the record of last five decades. The very next day of the flood alert, the Indian Air Force rescued 29 people stranded in an island of the Siang.

Following the report of heavy downpour in the Tsangpo basin in China, which was relayed to the Arunachal government by the Government of India, sounded alert of possible deluge by the Siang river and asked the people residing in low lying areas to refrain from venturing into the river and nearby water bodies to prevent any eventualities.

Dhemaji and Dibrugarh in Assam had sounded alert of deluge due to unprecedented rise of water in Siang River, creating panic among the people living in downstream Assam. The Dibrugarh district administration referring to a report warned the people of unprecedented rise of water level in the Brahmaputra river that might cause severe flood on the left bank. The administration in an order
issued today also asked the government officials not to leave the district headquarters and stay alert to deal with the situation.

Dhemaji district administration asked the people of riverine villages to be ready for shifting to safer places. The district administration, however, asked the people not to panic as the water resources department is keeping a vigil on the situation and any impending danger would be informed to the people in advance. Downstream, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) warned the district administrations in the eastern part of the state to be on high alert on August 30.

There was nothing to panic as the Central Water Commission (CWC) had reported that the water level at the Grand Canyon of Tsangpo on August 14 was 8070 cumec and an increase should not inflict severe damages, Arunachal government officials said quoting the Chinese communication. Of course, Indian Air Force helicopters rescued 19 people stranded on an island in the Siang in the Sille-Oyan area on the morning of August 31.

As per Ravi Ranjan, superintendent engineer of the Central Water Commission (CWC) – It’s certainly a relief. “The overall flood situation in Brahmaputra and Barak basin is well within control, there is no need for any alarm, all the tributaries are running well below danger levels. Real-time information sharing by China has certainly helped prepare better.” Ninong Ering, a member of parliament from Arunachal, was among the first to officially acknowledge that China’s early warning helped, enabling residents of the East Siang district of Arunachal to move to higher grounds.

It has been a hurdle for riparian countries to mitigate water and weather related problems without a proper mechanism data sharing, weather forecasting and flood mitigation. And for the first time Indian state governments issued flood alerts based on data received from China. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) agreed the alert from China but “made a difference”. ASDMA officials said although India had developed its own hi-tech satellite imaging systems which could pick up disturbances on the ground, the information was insufficient without ground data from China.