manas india asks manas bhutan for help
Manas invites Bhutan envoys
Guwahati, Dec. 29: When two civil administration officials from Bhutan came to take a look at the two female rhinos in Manas National Park today, it was clear that the neighbouring country also has a role to play in wildlife conservation.
Wildlife knows no boundaries. As both the parks are contiguous, wildlife often crosses boundaries and then it becomes the duty of the country concerned to take care of them.
“Royal Manas National Park shares its boundary with Manas National Park and the former has a role to play in wildlife conservation. They have to act responsibly also,” A. Swargowari, field director, Manas National Park, told The Telegraph.
Both the parks have already started working on transboundary conservation and, in fact, the first pictures of wildlife in Manas is a result of this project.
The officials had come from Panbang, which is a small town in Bhutan under Zhemgang district, on an invitation from Manas National Park to be a witness to the arrival of two rhinos from Pobitora.
With the addition of these two rhinos, the number of rhinos in Manas has now risen to seven. Of the seven, four are from Pobitora. The increase in the number of rhinos also means that the national park will now have to strengthen its infrastructure. This was a way to refurbish the national park, as its entire rhino population was wiped out during the insurgency by Bodo militants in the 1990s.
Both the rhinos came in a truck from Pobitora under security and reached Bansbari range of Manas National Park around 5.30am today. They were released in the Buraburijhar area in Bansbari around 7.30am. Assam chief secretary N.K. Das was on a visit to the park.
The rhinos have been released by a specially trained team and will be observed very closely for the next few hours. The team comprised C.R. Bhobora, deputy director of Manas Tiger Reserve, Kushal Sarma of College of Veterinary Sciences and M.L. Smith of Assam State Zoo.
The animals have been fitted with radio collars and will be monitored continuously for the next year by the staff of Manas National Park with support from members of WWF India. The monitoring team led by Deba Dutta of WWF India will be responsible for monitoring the released rhinos and will maintain a daily record. They will provide regular updates and will work under the supervision and guidance of the translocation core committee. After six months, a monitoring report will be submitted to the translocation core committee. 


camera trapped wildlife in Manas
Camera-trapped snaps raise hopes for Manas


Guwahati, Dec. 22: Pictures don’t lie and Manas is definitely not lying.

As the first camera-trapped pictures of wildlife come out, the Manas National Paark authorities want to send across the message that there is still hope for the numerous species in the park though the numbers may not be that big.

“These pictures at least demonstrate that there is still hope for Manas,” the field director of Manas tiger reserve, A. Swargowari, told The Telegraph.

Camera trapping began in November when forest authorities of India and Bhutan agreed to start a joint initiative to “camera trap” tigers’ movements across the international border, which also heralded the beginning of a new chapter in co-operation between the two countries for wildlife conservation. The exercise will continue till the end of January.

Altogether 150 cameras were placed in 75 locations in the park.

Not only tiger, leopard, black panther, clouded leopard, leopard cat, jungle cat, wild pig, elephant, civet, porcupine have been “trapped” during the exercise.

These cameras are being monitored by different organisations — the World Wildlife Fund, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment and Aaranyak.

In Manas India, the areas being covered are Bansbari and Bhuyanpara while in Bhutan, the Manas range of Royal Manas National Park is being surveyed.

With the monitoring mission team of International Union for Conservation of Nature/World Heritage Committee coming next month, these pictures will prove that wildlife is present in the national park.

The World Heritage Committee has been telling the park authorities that an upward trend in the populations of key wildlife species needs to be demonstrated in order to remove it from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Manas National Park is the most diverse of the country’s wildlife reserves. It houses 61 species of mammals, 354 species of birds, 42 species of reptile, 9 species of amphibian, 79 species of fish and more than 187 species of butterfly and 100 species of invertebrates.

It also has the country’s highest numbers of protected endangered endemic species — 22 of Schedule I mammals. “These pictures are telling that Manas is kicking back into action. Almost all the major carnivore species and its prey has been camera trapped,” a WWF official, who was involved in the exercise, told The Telegraph.

“There is definitely hope and now sincere planning, commitment is required to restore its past glory. Within a decade from now, if the same commitment continues, at least 90 per cent of wildlife in Manas will be back,” the secretary general of Aaranyak, Bibhab Talukdar, said.

“Local communities are also supporting the conservation initiatives as has been evident in the Indian Rhino Vision, 2020, with no incidents of poaching reported as of now.”

In 1992, Manas was put on the List of World Heritage in Danger after threats related to insurgency in and around the park resulted in depletion of forest habitat and wildlife population and destruction of park infrastructure.


Delhi slams Assam on forest rights act

Delhi slams official attitude to forest act

- Approach bureaucratic, says joint report

Guwahati, Dec. 10: The joint committee of ministry of environment and forests and ministry of tribal affairs has scathingly criticised the official attitude of Assam towards the Forest Rights Act.

“As a whole, the official attitude towards Forest Rights Act and its implementation is highly bureaucratic and lacks serious engagement. The strong resistance on the part of the forest department against the act was visible everywhere. The department misinterpreted the provisions of the act,” the report stated.

The report was made public today. It summarises the enquiries and observations recorded during field visits along with public consultations and meetings with field officials.

The report said the department misinterpreted the provisions of the act. It said the general attitude amongst the majority of the forest officials was to interpret that the rural population was historically not dependent on forests. The report quoted the chief secretary of Assam saying, “If the act is to be implemented, there will be no forest coverage left.”

He admitted that the district magistrates of various districts have a disparity in understanding the act. The chief secretary also informed that the act could not be implemented in the Sixth Schedule Areas, which would require an amendment to its rule.

The Assam government has accordingly written to the Centre to amend rules and is still awaiting a response.

The chief secretary carefully articulated the views of the state government on the nature of claimants and categorically reiterated, “we are willing to give rights to tribals but not to non-tribals” as most of them are encroachers.

It said a large number of petitions was either pending or rejected. In the state, almost 74 per cent of the applications are in the “in pending” category.

This is highly disappointing given that the implementation of forest rights has been active since 2008.

Officials belonging to forest and social welfare departments are making brief enquiries to make such critical decisions. The officials have not attempted to probe deeper for crucial evidences needed for the effective implementation of the act.

The report said there has been widespread hostility among the conservationists on the future implications of the Forest Rights Act. “The primary question that they have been raising is not unique to the state. The conservation groups have registered their concerns about the rapid deforestation in selected pockets of forests. They have also put forward the argument that settlement of people inside the protected areas will lead to further fragmentation of landscape of the these areas.” Examples were cited from Manas National Park of the crucial damages to habitat because of settlements inside the park.

The report said there has been rampant violation of procedures as laid down in the act like boundaries of land not being shown in the certificates, over-night completion of procedures and others.


red panda conservation community alliance

Villagers form alliance to conserve red panda

- Five villages in Arunachal constitute group with support from Sir Dorabji Tata Trust


Guwahati, Dec. 7: Villagers in the high-altitude areas of Arunachal Pradesh have joined hands to form a red panda conservation alliance — claiming to be the first community initiative of its kind in the world.

"The constitution of the alliance will not only help in conservation of red pandas in a scientific manner but will also help in strengthening the ongoing community-based tourism being promoted in the area as conservation incentives for the villagers. This is reported to be the first community initiative of its kind in the world,” Pijush Kumar Dutta, the landscape co-ordinator of Western Arunachal Pradesh Landscape Conservation Programme WWF-India, told The Telegraph.

Dutta said since the area has a good population of red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), which is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, Appendix I of CITES and as endangered species in IUCN Red List, villagers have decided to form Pangchen Red Panda Conservation Alliance.

The alliance, formed with support from Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, has been named Pangchen Red Panda Conservation Alliance as these villages — Socktsen, Kharman, Kelengteng, Lumpo and Muchat — are from this valley. The villages are situated at a height ranging from 6,000 to 14,000 feet. The villagers have reported sighting red pandas on the laju tree in the valley.

The total forest area under control of these five villagers is 200 square km and this area is known as community-conserved area.

“A detailed plan will be prepared in discussion with the villagers. However, immediate plan of action is to ban any kind of hunting or capturing of red panda. The idea is to ensure protection of its habitat and plant species on which it is dependent and report sighting by any villagers and maintain a record of it,” Dutta said.

Work will be taken up in consultation with the villagers to identify the threats and pressure on red panda and its habitat to develop a long-term management plan.

Dutta said there had been no scientific study of population of the red panda in Arunachal Pradesh but based on the area of its suitable habitat, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of the animals’ population in the country is in Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.

The idea behind the alliance is to strengthen the community-based conservation to secure vast forest area of the state, which is under the control of indigenous communities. Nearly, 60 per cent of the forest area is under traditional ownership.

Dutta said the residents of two community-conserved areas (CCAs) in Tawang district, Thembang Bapu CCA (312 square km), and Pangchen Lumpo Muchat CCA (98 square km), had started similar initiatives to protect the wildlife in 2008 and in the process had earned a good revenue from tourism.

It has helped the villagers in these areas earn over Rs 4.24 lakh by providing home-stay operators, home-based restaurant operators, porters, guides, cooks and helpers besides entry fee, camera fee, camping site charge and camping material charge.


special force pill for namdapha

Special force pill for Namdapha

- Evaluation experts suggest involving Lisus to prevent poaching


Guwahati, Dec. 5: A rapid field evaluation on Namdapha tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, conducted by experts, has suggested to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) the need to have a separate protection force by members of the Lisu tribe, who have excellent knowledge of the terrain to help in detection of poachers from Myanmar.

The conservation authority has categorised Namdapha as a poor tiger reserve and had asked experts to carry out a rapid appraisal.

The expert committee report, which was recently submitted to NTCA, said there could even be an agreement with the Lisu community that they would take an active role in preventing hunting and other disturbances.

“There can be forest camps every 10km with regular staff posted along with members of the Lisu community,” the report said.

The team opined that Namdapha tiger reserve is of immense value from biodiversity point of view as it also shelters tiger and other key animals. Illegal hunting is a serious threat to wildlife in the park, and is prevalent among all tribal groups.

The report said poaching was likely to be among the primary factors resulting in the current decline in Namdapha, which is located along the international border with Myanmar and close to hotspots of trade in animal body parts.

“In Myanmar, there is a documented decline of tigers because of hunting for trade. Hunting of tigers is a significant threat to the persistence or recovery of tigers and other large carnivores in Namdapha,” it said.

There are 84 families staying in eight villages in the core area of the tiger reserve. It says contingency staff for protection squad should be hired from local communities, rules on educational qualifications should be relaxed as this often hampers the selection of the right people for forest patrolling duties. The best people for this work are often uneducated, but skilled in the jungle.

Not only in regard to recruiting local people, the committee has also called for a change in attitude of the forest department as there has been a long history of blaming the Lisu with poor efforts at understanding their problems or dialogue.

The committee feels this mindset needs to change to move forward positively to solve the park’s problems.

The biggest problem is in relocation of Lisus outside the park as the leaders of the community have indicated that they were not willing to settle for the Rs 10 lakh compensation and would want adequate land to be notified and demarcated for them in lieu of the occupied land in the park.

Settlements inside the park came up since 1997-98.

“All these problems have also been exacerbated by the remoteness of the area with no road connection, poor communication and infrastructure, low staff strength and motivation, poor official interest in the park with very limited action/management on ground. These also results in further deterioration of morale and functioning of the lower field staff,” the report said.


Statistical institute in Tezpur

Stats hub at Tezpur varsity

- Tie-up with Indian Statistical Institute


Guwahati, Nov. 18: The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) will soon open its doors in the Northeast, making it possible for students of the subject in the region to realise their dream of studying at the institute.

A memorandum of agreement will be signed between the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, and Tezpur University on Sunday at the Circuit House here.

The agreement will be signed by the director of ISI Calcutta, Bimal Kumar Roy, and Tezpur University vice-chancellor Mihir Kumar Chaudhuri in the presence of Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is the chairman of the Council of the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, and chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

Sources said ISI authorities visited numerous university campuses in the Northeast before selecting Tezpur University for starting the centre.

The state government has identified a 20-acre plot of land near the university to set up a full-fledged centre of the institute.

A senior academician of North Eastern Hill University (Nehu) has been selected to run the ISI centre. Recruitment for other posts is under way.

An official at Tezpur University said, “We are happy that the university has been chosen as the ISI centre in the Northeast and will endeavour to provide all facilities.”

The university does not offer any degree in statistics at present but offers a degree in mathematical sciences with a paper on statistics.

Tezpur University was established by an act of Parliament in 1994.

Its objective, as envisaged in its statute, is to strive to offer employment-oriented and inter-disciplinary courses to meet regional and national aspirations. It also aims to offer courses and promote research in areas having special and direct relevance to the region and in the emerging areas of science and technology. In the process, it aims to develop Assam.

The ISI is devoted to the research, teaching and application of statistics, natural sciences and social sciences.

Founded by P.C. Mahalanobis in Calcutta on December 17, 1931, it gained the status of an institution of national importance by an act of Parliament in 1959.

Its headquarters is located on a sprawling 30-acre estate on the Barrackpore Trunk Road (BT Road) in the Baranagore suburb of greater Calcutta.

It has two teaching centres in Delhi and Bangalore, besides offices in seven places in the country.

Research in statistics and related disciplines is the primary activity of the institute. It holds classes mainly in Calcutta, Delhi and Bangalore. Its offices located in other cities of the country are primarily engaged in projects and consultancy in statistical quality control and operations research


Centre for speeding up waterways projects in NE

Centre to speed up waterways project


Guwahati, Nov. 19: The Centre will expedite inland waterways projects in the Northeast despite the dismal response to the scheme for promotion of smaller waterways in the region.

The Centre has found that the main reason for the lack of proposals is non-availability of technical organisations and expertise with the various state governments to prepare the proposals and seek its sanction.

Sources said the matter has been reviewed at the highest levels and a decision has been taken that such shortcomings on the part of state governments should not be allowed to become a reason for not harnessing the potential for inland water transport in the region.

The Inland Waterways Authority of India, the apex organisation in matters of inland navigation, will help the state government identify water transport projects and prepare specific project proposals to be implemented by various states, the sources added.

The state governments will also set up separate inland water transport organisations to look after and execute various inland water transport projects.

As the first step, the Centre, with the help of consultants, will identify, enumerate and prioritise potential inland navigation development projects in each of the states by referring to all the available reports/data/statistics, through interaction with officials of respective state governments and also selectively visiting such potential river sections and locations.

It will prepare separate project reports for the schemes on each of the identified projects by undertaking reconnaissance surveys and data collection specific to each project and in consultation with the implementing agencies under the respective state government.

These reports will then be made available to the respective state governments.

Sources said the Centre would help the respective state governments submit their proposals to the Union ministry of shipping, seeking its approval for schemes.

It will co-ordinate between the state governments and the administrative ministry at the Centre to facilitate the sanction for the projects and timely implementation by the state government.

Inland water transport is operationally cheaper, high in fuel efficiency and environment friendly and has a vast potential to act as an alternative mode of transportation.

However, it has also made it clear that the proposed identification study will not include the Brahmaputra and the Barak, for which separate action is under way, in accordance with policy applicable to the National Waterways.


ICFAI venture in Assam

ICFAI to set up varsity in Assam


Guwahati, Nov. 11: Assam is reaping the benefits of wooing the private sector to invest in the state’s education sector.

After Don Bosco University, it is now the turn of Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) to set up a university in the state. The Hyderabad-based institute has got the letter of intent, allowing it to set up a private university at Sonapur in Kamrup (metro) district.

“The Assam government had issued a letter of intent in July 2008 for establishment of the university with a validity of two years. On expiry of that period, a fresh letter of intent was issued in October 2010. We have acquired 53 acres of land near Tepesia stadium in Sonapur and construction work has already began,” J.J. Kawle Director, NorthEast university cell, ICFAI, told The Telegraph today.

Dispur had passed Assam Private University Bill, 2007, paving the way for establishment and incorporation of private universities in the state. This was done to provide the best education facilities here, as large number of students from Assam go outside the state to seek quality education.

Kawle said construction has started and should be completed within a year. He said in the first phase, about 1,26,000 square foot, comprising academic and administration facilities, would be constructed. “We expect to commence academic activity in Assam by 2012-13,” he added.

“On submission of the compliance of conditions of the letter of intent, the state government will take up the bill for notifying the university through an act,” he said.

The cost of setting up the campus in Assam is estimated to be Rs 30 to 40 crore.

At the start of the academic activity, the university will offer BTech, Bachelor’s in Business Administration, Bachelor’s in Computer Applications, Bachelor of Hospitality and Tourism Management and BSc at the undergraduate level, and MBA and MCA at the post graduate level.

In Northeast, ICFAI has universities in Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland and Mizoram. Kawle said on November 12, the foundation stone-laying ceremony of a university campus would also be held in Tura, Meghalaya. Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma will lay the foundation stone.

“The university in Tripura is doing very well and already has 1,500 students,” he said.

Kawle said the idea behind the university is to create and disseminate knowledge and skills, in core and frontier areas, through innovative educational programmes, research, consultancy and publishing. It also aims to develop a new cadre of professionals, with high levels of competence and a deep sense of ethics and commitment to the code of professional conduct.


india-bhutan join hands in wildlife

India, Bhutan to jointly monitor Manas tigers


Guwahati, Nov. 10: The forest authorities of India and Bhutan have agreed to start a joint initiative to “camera trap” tigers moving across the international border from November 20, marking the beginning of a new chapter in cooperation between the two countries for wildlife conservation.

This was decided at a meeting between representatives of Manas National Park India and Royal Manas National Park Bhutan at Bansbari in Manas today. The idea behind the exercise is to monitor the movement of tigers between the two parks having contiguous areas.

The field director of Manas National Park, A. Swargiari, told this correspondent that both the countries had decided to go ahead with the joint camera trapping from November 20. “This is a historic day for both the countries in wildlife cooperation, and both sides have assured their support,” he said.

Around 450 square km will be covered on both sides of the boundary and the exercise will continue for two months. In Manas India, the areas covered would be Bansbari and Bhuyanpara while in Bhutan, authorities would be covering the Manas range of Royal Manas National Park.

Bivash Pandav from WWF International, who was present at the meeting, said the results of the first-ever joint camera trapping should be out by February and a joint report would be brought out. “This would be the biggest area covered jointly with another country,” he said.

Royal Manas National Park manager Tenzi Wangchuk represented Bhutan, which has provided full support to the exercise.

The meeting discussed the concept of Greater Manas which has already got the support from World Heritage Committee. The need for trans-border property cooperation and for having regular joint meetings was also discussed. A resolution was passed for conservation of greater Manas landscape.

While Manas India has an area of 500 square km, Royal Manas Bhutan covers 1,057 square km and tigers move from Phibsoo wildlife sanctuary in Bhutan to Manas tiger reserve, Buxa tiger reserve and Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary in India.

Standard monitoring protocol will be followed for the entire exercise, a senior forest official said.

The meeting also discussed the idea of having a similar exercise for monitoring elephants.

Apart from WWF, Aaranyak and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment also rendered their support.

The World Heritage Committee has been saying that the co-operation was highly valuable and even necessary for wildlife conservation for which Manas was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan has been saying that disturbance on the Indian side affects them and working together would be beneficial to both sides.


water data for private developers in NE

Group favours ease in hydro data access
Guwahati, Nov. 8: The ministry of water resources has been asked to review its guidelines regarding release of “classified” hydrological data on Brahmaputra and it tributaries to private developers to facilitate accelerated development of hydroelectric projects in the Northeast.
Sources said the inter-ministerial group for hydro-power development in Northeast India, in its report, has asked the ministry of water resources to review its guidelines to facilitate access to hydrological data by private developers for expeditious development of the hydro-power potential of the region. This will be done keeping in place the required safeguards to serve national interest.
The inter-ministerial group was constituted by the ministry of water resources on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office to evolve a suitable framework to guide and accelerate the development of hydropower in the Northeast.
The report said with the shift in government policy, hydroelectric projects are being given to private developers, who are facing difficulty in getting access to the all-important hydrological data. The state governments are reluctant to provide the secrecy undertaking on behalf of the private developers, even as a number of hydroelectric projects in Arunachal Pradesh are being executed by the private sector.
Sources said earlier projects were executed by government agencies and there was no problem in acquiring hydrological data on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries from the ministry of water resources or Central Water Commission as per existing guidelines. These guidelines stipulate that no hydrological data should be released to international and private agencies. They provide that in case of requests for releasing data to private parties in the country, the secrecy undertaking should be obtained from the concerned ministry, department or public sector undertaking.
The Brahmaputra is a major international river covering a drainage area of 580,000 square km. Of this 50.5 per cent lies in China, 33.6 per cent in India, 8.1 per cent in Bangladesh and 7.8 per cent in Bhutan.
The hydrological data of any river is the foremost requirement for planning and designing of any hydropower project. The existing guidelines, issued by the ministry of water resources, say that hydrological data may be released to central or state government offices, including public sector undertakings, only after obtaining a secrecy undertaking from an officer of joint secretary rank.
“The data of these basins are classified, and hence is provided to bonafide users on request following a set procedure for release of classified data. Wherever required, the approval of ministry is sought for release of such data,” a water resources official said.
Sources said the non-availability of hydrological data for Brahmaputra is resulting in delay in preparation of the detailed project reports for the hydroelectric projects, and that it would be most helpful if that the procedure for obtaining it is put up on the website of the Central Water Commission.
Apart from Brahmaputra, Indus, Ganga and Barak river basins have been categorised as classified river basins.

NID for NE designs
Motif clinic to help local industry
- National Institute of Design to provide inputs for product patterns ROOPAK GOSWAMI
Guwahati, Nov 8: The micro, small and medium enterprises sector in the region is poised to get a facelift, design-wise, with the proposed setting up of a “design clinic” by the National Institute of Design (NID) in Guwahati.
The Ahmedabad-based premier design school of the country has agreed to set up a regional centre in Guwahati and a memorandum of understanding will be signed on November 11 with the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) under the design clinic scheme.
NID has been appointed as the nodal agency to implement the scheme, which was launched last year by the development commissioner, ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises, for providing design expertise to micro, small and medium enterprises in the Northeast.
The design clinic is a tested strategic model of design intervention, where a solution to an existing design problem is diagnosed and remedial steps suggested by a multidisciplinary team of design experts. In this scheme, value addition to an idea or a concept is imparted simply through interaction, thereby reducing related costs.
The primary focus of the clinic, which will be the first of its kind in the region, will be on design development for the products of artisans, individual units and clusters, a majority of which are being implemented by the IIE. The institute is involved in implementation and technical support to 22 clusters spread all over the region. A cluster is a group of enterprises and organisations having common business opportunities and threats within a given geographical area. The defining variable is the product or service, which generally includes a product range.
“Better designs will make the products more marketable and saleable, helping the artisans earn a better livelihood,” an official of the institute said. The institute will also provide office space and administrative support to operationalise the centre and implement the scheme.
The IIE has been working on improving the product designs with the help of some local designers.
The official said the convergence of two premier national organisations will bring in accelerated development for the micro, small and medium enterprises and help mitigate the scarcity of qualified designers in the region.
Under the design clinic scheme, design sensitisation seminars, awareness programmes and design projects will be held. This will help to generate awareness about design methodology and approach for the sector.
The official said the opening of the extension centre for the Northeast zone would help bring the micro and small sector in the region and design expertise onto a common platform and provide expert advice and solutions on real-time design problems, resulting in continuous improvement and value addition for existing products. “This will help bring design exposure to the doorstep of the large number of small and medium clusters in the northeastern region,” he said.
The micro, small and medium enterprises sector in the country is a major contributor to the GDP growth, accounting for about 8 per cent.

country boats makeover

Makeover for country boats
Guwahati, Oct. 29: The country boats (bhut-bhutis) in the Northeast will soon be given a makeover in order to improve connectivity and transport facilities.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India has shown interest in providing assistance for the mechanisation and upgrade of country boats in the region to help in the overall development of inland water transport mode of communication.
Sources said a scheme to provide 50 per cent assistance for the mechanisation and upgrade of country boats is being prepared.
A presentation was made before the North Eastern Council in this regard.
The owner of the boats will provide 50 per cent and the government will provide 50 per cent by the owner of the country boats. The Centre will provide Dispur’s share.
There was no scheme earlier for the unorganised sector.
The country boat is the principal means of unorganised transport for cargo and passengers.
Country boats are generally driven by an agricultural pump engine that is attached to a direct shaft and propeller, while launches have wooden hulls and are fitted with a truck engine and gearbox.
There is a dense network of mechanised country boats in lower Assam, particularly in Dhubri, Goalpara, Guwahati, Jorhat, and Tezpur, where they are used to transport crops, vegetables, dairy products and livestock to the towns and cities from the agricultural riverine islands.
Similar operations exist in the Dibrugarh-Sadiya-Saikhowa triangle, where various tributaries of the Brahmaputra meet.
A senior waterways official said it would improve the efficiency of the small vessels and thereby increase employment opportunities and efficiency of inland water transport sector as a whole.
“It will also help in poverty alleviation and improve connectivity,” the official said.
In the Northeast, that a lot of transportation (both passengers and cargo) takes place through small country craft with a capacity of 40 to 50 tonnes.
The mechanisation of these small vessels and fitting of appropriate safety devices/appliances on board will improve the productivity of these vessels, bring down transportation costs, improve overall transportation efficiency and make inland water transport operations safer.
There have been a number of mishaps on these country boats during the floods in Assam.
A study on inland water transport development in the Northeast carried out by IWAI on the annual movement of passengers and cargo on National Waterway 2 has estimated that nearly 30 million people use the organised sector and 20 million use the unorganised sector.
“This mode of transport is essential to small or remote locations for the transport of agricultural and commercial products to and from regional markets and growth centres, especially during the monsoon and floods. The upgrade of country boats will serve a big purpose,” the official said.


India-bhutan joint tiger camera trapping

India and Bhutan join hands for tiger project
- Manas in both countries to undertake big cat estimation through camera-trapping
Forest officials of Manas National Park of both India and Bhutan will go ahead with tiger estimation in both countries simultaneously for the first time.
The idea behind the exercise, which will be done through camera-trapping, is to study the movement of tigers in contiguous areas.
“A meeting, the first of its kind, will be held at Manas National Park on November 10 where officials from Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan will be coming to discuss the modalities,” A. Swargiari, field director of the park, told The Telegraph.
At the meeting, the coordination part of the project, patrolling and protection will be discussed.
The estimated date of tiger estimation has been fixed as November 15.
Bivash Pandav from the World Wide Fund will coordinate the camera-trapping for Royal Manas in Bhutan.
Pandav had recently come to Manas in India to discuss the issue with Swargiari.
At Manas India, camera-trapping will be done at Bansbari, Bhuyanpara and Panbari.
“Camera-trapping will obviously help in getting pictures of other animals too,” Swargiari said.
Swargiari said the forest department of Bodoland Territorial Council had been informed of the exercise and they, too, have agreed to come to the meeting.
Experts from Aaranyak, a wildlife non-government organisation, have also agreed to help Manas India in camera-trapping.
Another issue to be discussed at the meeting is the creation of a Greater Manas, together with the existence of Royal Manas in Bhutan and Manas in India, which will provide an important guarantee for the integrity of the property and long-term conservation of the values for which it was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The World Heritage Committee has already supported the idea of Greater Manas.
The Tiger Action Plan for Bhutan states that its tiger population was distributed through most parts of the country and the habitats connected with those in India.
Tigers move from Phibsoo wildlife sanctuary in Bhutan to Manas tiger reserve, Buxa tiger reserve and Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary in India.
The plan states that Bhutan’s contribution will be crucial to long-term survival of tigers in the region.
In fact, the continuous distribution in the Manas-Namdapha Tiger Conservation Unit forms the nucleus of one of the two largest tiger populations in South Asia.
Sources said the need for trans-boundary cooperation between protected area personnel is for two reasons — the movement of wildlife transcends international boundaries and it is, therefore, important that they are sufficiently protected when they cross into the other side of the border and also, much of the poaching occurs along borders as a consequence of its porosity and border areas are ready market for wildlife products.
While Manas India has an area of 500 square km, Royal Manas, Bhutan covers 1,057 square km.
River Manas connects the two parks and is integral to the topography.
Sources said though officials of both parks shared a good relationship and regularly met and shared resources, they needed to concretise it and shape it into a protocol.
Manas National Park contains 22 of Schedule I mammals and at least 33 of its animals are listed as threatened.
Royal Manas in Bhutan has 58 species of mammals.


NE telecom road map

Road map to expand phone reach
Guwahati, Oct. 24: The department of telecommunications is going all out to double the teledensity in the region by December 2012.
With the strategic location of the region characterised by extremely tough terrain with limited transportation and other infrastructure and to bring it into the national mainstream, officials say it would be essential to substantially improve the telecommunication facilities.
The plan, Future Plan with Monitorable Targets for Improvement of Telecommunication Infrastructure in Northeast, has been drawn up targeting December 2012.
The plan speaks of entire national highways network being covered by June and the state highways by December next year. Broadband connections are targeted to have a four-fold increase by December 2012. All district headquarters and block headquarters are targeted to be covered by December. All villages in the region will be provided with public telephones by June.
Figures released by the department of telecommunications reveal that the teledensity in Assam as on June 30 is 20.31. Teledensity indicates the number of telephone lines per 100 people. While the teledensity of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura is 44.18, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland have a teledensity of 6.27.
The region comprises three territorial telecom circles — Assam, NE-I (comprising Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura) and NE-II (comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland).
The department of telecommunications is also providing subsidy support for setting up and managing infrastructure sites (towers) in the region for provision of mobile services in rural and remote areas, where there is no existing fixed wireless or mobile coverage. Around 85 towers have been commissioned in Assam as on June 30.
This is being done under the universal service obligation fund which is meant to serve rural and inaccessible areas and to provide vital telecom connectivity as these areas also generate lower revenue because of lower population density, low income and lack of commercial activity.
The infrastructure, so created, is being shared by service providers.
For induction of new technological developments in the telecom sector on a pilot project basis in rural and remote areas, a scheme has been launched wherein about five pilot projects shall be provided subsidy support.
Support is also being considered for renewable energy resources (solar, wind, diesel) with one site each in all states of the region. Further support is also being considered for mobile charging stations through TERI project of Lighting a Billion Lives. Hundred of such charging stations are being provided in Assam.

wwf eye on manas

WWF to aid Manas plans 
Guwahati, Oct. 20: The World Wildlife Fund has evinced interest in the long-term management of Manas National Park.
This was conveyed by Carlos Drews, the director of species programme, WWF International, to A. Swargiari, the field director of Manas National Park, at Manas yesterday.
This is the first time Drews is visiting Assam.
The WWF International, headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, has been assisting the state forest department in a number of ways. It works with local communities and turns them into agents of change in Assam. One of the biggest programmes in which it is involved is India Rhino Vision 2020.
The second phase of the programme is yet to begin, because of some delays.
“Drews asked me if the WWF can be involved in future long-term management of Manas,” Swargiari told The Telegraph today.
Manas is a World Heritage Site in Danger at present.
Drews discussed a variety of issues with Swargiari and other officials. The topics included the role of WWF, its future interventions and on the trans-boundary initiatives with Manas Bhutan.
“Goodwill cannot be purchased by money, you have to show sincerity and devotion,” Swargiari quoted Drews.
WWF-India is aiming at securing the elephant and tiger population of the North Bank Landscape.
Some of its current activities are supporting protected areas, research, resolving human-elephant conflict, critical elephant corridors and study tiger habitats.
The North Bank Landscape is the area between the northern bank of the Brahmaputra in the south to the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in the north and the River Manas in the west to the Dibang river in the east.
The total size of the landscape is approximately 40,000 sqkm and includes parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The area comprises a major part of the Himalaya bio-diversity hotspot and is also one of WWF’s Global 200 eco-regions.
Drews visited the Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary and Nameri today and will be in Kaziranga for two days. He came to Assam on October 18 and was in Manas for two days.


new hope for dhubri waterways

River terminal plan for Dhubri


Guwahati, Oct. 21: The Inland Waterways Authority of India is reviewing traffic projections upto 2025 to set up a modern permanent river terminal at Dhubri.

There has been no permanent terminal facility at Dhubri, though the waterway authorities operate and maintain a floating terminal for the vessels and movement of cargo.

From pre-Independence days, Dhubri has been playing the role of an active distribution/collection centre for fertiliser, food grain and other agricultural products.

Other agricultural products to and from south Meghalaya are also routed through Dhubri.

Many of south Meghalaya villages and towns are connected by mechanised ferry and the inland water transport route cuts down transportation costs.

A total of 4.59 acres at Bahadurtari in Dhubri town has been identified as a suitable location to set up a permanent terminal.

The proposal has already been submitted to the state government through the Dhubri deputy commissioner to acquire land for the terminus.

The land has got good connectivity to the main highway through the public works department road of Dhubri town.

The depth of the river adjacent to the terminal is also sufficient to berth inland vessels.

Once a suitable terminal is set up, it can be used for movement of several goods through water transport.

The water authority is now on the lookout for consultants to prepare a detailed project report for setting up a permanent river terminal.

Sources said the study would have to review traffic projections, data collection from earlier reports, all relevant authorities and update it for future potential traffic for 2015, 2020 and 2025.

“The study will have to fix the location of the jetty to ensure the safe berthing of loaded barges up to a 2.5-metre draft during leanest period.

“Geo-technical investigation on the land will have to be carried out apart from collection of water-level data (two locations) for the purpose of design of structures,” a source said.

It will also have to recommend the kind of cargo handling equipment required at the terminal, considering the prevailing norms for operation and its merits/demerits.

The study will also view the tariff structure for use of the terminal.

The terminal will have suitable mechanical handling equipment to handle the cargo and a fire fighting system according to terms and requirement.


100 years and still young

Only 100-year-young for research degree
- Oldest student at GU
Guwahati, Oct. 18: Einstein once said knowledge exists in two forms — lifeless, stored in books, and alive, in the consciousness of men. The second form of existence is, after all, the essential one.
At 100, Bholaram Das, a former Cottonian and freedom fighter, who is going all out to complete his PhD falls in the second group.
Living a century is itself a dream and still pursuing a higher degree could be a miracle for many in the country.
“His memory is still active. I think in all probability he will be able to complete his research,” Dipak Kumar Sharma, his guide at department of Sanskrit of Gauhati University, told The Telegraph.
On Saturday during a function at Cotton College when Gauhati University vice-chancellor O.K. Medhi announced that Bholaram Das was pursuing PhD, many felt that age was no bar for knowledge.
Das with a Gandhi cap was given a standing ovation at the function.
In fact, Das is the oldest student at Gauhati University pursuing PhD and could be the oldest in the country.
At the function, Das spoke on his life and the various influences. He admitted that his health was failing and he did not know whether he would be able to complete his research. However, his family said he was mentally strong. “I am not sure whether I will able to complete my PhD on time as my health is failing, but my mind is not,” he added.
Das passed his HSLC in 1933 with first division and graduated from Cotton College in 1937 and cleared MA and bachelor of law from Calcutta University in 1940 and 1941. He retired as a district and sessions judge from Gauhati High Court in 1971.
His research topic is role and contribution of Bohori village of Barpeta district in spreading the neo-Vaishnavite way of life in north-eastern part of India. He has also written three articles in his life.
Das was born at Bohori village in Barpeta district. “It is generally the students who call their guides ‘Sir’ but in this case I call him ‘Sir’.”
He registered as a PhD student in 2008 at the age of 98.
“Many had raised objection at that time on a 98-year-old person wanting to do PhD, but vice-chancellor Medhi took a positive stand and gave a go ahead,” Sharma said.
Cotton College principal I.K. Bhattacharya said being a holiday the college could not honour him in a befitting way and wished him for successful completion of his PhD.
The former president of Asom Sahitya Sabha, Kana-ksen Deka, said Das was a perfect role model for the young.
Assam Governor J.B. Patnaik said Das is 100 and still not out. “He has lived a full life and there are very few people living at 100,” he said.
One of his sons, Bhupati Das, chairman and managing director of Numaligarh Refinery Limited, said his father is an eternal optimist with a never-say-die spirit.
His latest fascination is learning the violin, his grandson, Abhinab, said.


Brahmaputra-- dedicated freight corridor

Guwahati, Oct. 11: Efforts are being made to make the Brahmaputra, National Waterway 2, a “dedicated freight corridor” for the Northeast.
This was proposed by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to the DoNER ministry at a meeting in Delhi recently.
A dedicated freight corridor will enable the waterways authority regain its market share of freight transport by creating additional capacity and guaranteeing efficient, reliable, safe and cheaper options for mobility to its customers.
The waterways authority says about 20 lakh tonnes of cargo moves on NW2 annually and it has invested Rs 286 crore on development of NW2 since it became a national waterway in 1988.
“It has got great potential and all possible steps are being taken to make it realise its status as a national waterway,” a waterways authority official said.
The argument for a dedicated freight corridor gets a shot in the arm as promoters of hydropower plants coming up in Arunachal Pradesh have evinced interest using NW2 and tributaries for transportation of project cargo.
“The national waterway can be used as a dedicated freight corridor for ferrying traditional goods like jute, tea, coal from the Northeast to Bangladesh, Calcutta and foodgrain, fertilisers, fly ash, cement, steel, bitumen from Calcutta to the region,” a senior IWAI said.
The declaration of Ashuganj as a port of call in Bangladesh will improve connectivity to Tripura. while the Silghat port of call in Assam will enable transportation of products of Numaligarh Refinery Ltd and other refineries of the region to Bagabari in Bangladesh
“It has been observed that uprooted trees from the forest area in Dibrugarh-Sadiya stretch often block the navigable channel and safe movement of vessels through the main channel cannot take place. The authority plans for removing underwater wooden logs and others from the navigable channel and remove the same” the official said.
The authority has also prepared an action plan for making National Waterway 2 (Dhubri-Sadiya sector of Brahmaputra river) fully functional by 2011-12. This includes maintaining a 2.5 metre depth in Dhubri-Neemati stretch (630km), 2 metres between Neemati-Dibrugarh (138km) and 1.5 metres between Dibrugarh-Sadiya (123km).
For this purpose, IWAI has one cutter section dredger and one hydraulic section dredger (HSD) and it is getting four more cutter section dredger and one more HSD constructed for this waterway to maintain navigability.
Terminals at 11 locations are being maintained on NW2 for handling cargo vessels and ferrying passengers. The entire waterway is surveyed fortnightly and river notices are issued fortnightly.
The official said to make NW2 fully functional the linkage up to Calcutta through Indo-Bangladesh protocol route within Bangladesh should also be made fully functional in consultation with Bangladesh and the ministry of external affairs.
The official said as the road and railways have limitations because of the “chicken’s neck”, the inland water transport mode is a reliable mode for movement of cargo.



No direct aid for tiger funds

Guwahati, Oct. 12: The hopes of tiger reserves in Assam getting money directly through the tiger conservation foundation have been dashed because of a lapse at the Union government-level and will be it through the usual state government channel which takes a long time.
“We have been informed that the routing of money through the foundations has to be cleared by the Union cabinet and some formalities has to be cleared. We are disappointed as the money will come through the usual channel,” a senior forest department official told The Telegraph.
The Centre has released the first instalment of the conservation funds sanctioned for three tiger reserves in Assam.
It has released Rs 573.08 lakh for the current fiscal of which Rs 272.72 lakh will go to Kaziranga, Rs 237.5 lakh to Manas and Rs 63.58 lakh to Nameri.
The total amount sanctioned under Project Tiger for the three reserves is Rs 903.55 lakh of which the lion’s share is for Kaziranga (Rs 448.15 lakh), followed by Manas (Rs 356.08 lakh) and Nameri (Rs 99.32 lakh).
“We have worked hard for setting up the foundations and are the first one to do so in the entire country. Now, we will have to wait for the money to come through the government channels which takes a long time and ultimately affects conservation at the field level,” an official in Kaziranga said.
Delay in getting funds at the right time has been one of the main problems of wildlife conservation in Assam as often the money remains unutilised as by the time it is released by the state government, the financial year is over.
“Getting funds released from the state finance department is indeed very difficult. We are not supposed to go to the finance department for getting the money released. Our duty is to protect wildlife,” a park official said.
Manas tiger reserve in 2009-10 could not get funds because of failure in submitting utilisation certificates, which was because of late release of funds by the state government.
The main aim of the tiger conservation foundation will be to facilitate and support the tiger reserve management for conservation of the big cat and bio-diversity through multi-stakeholder participation according to approved management plans and to support similar initiatives in adjoining landscapes, consistent with the national and state legislation.
Formation of the foundations will enable the three tiger reserves in the state to function on its own with a certain degree of autonomy and plough back funds generated through gate collection and tourism activities for managing the habitat and its bio-diversity. At the tiger reserve level, the head of the governing body will be a legislator. 


PPP picks up in Assam

Centre clears 10 PPP projects
Brahmaputra riverfront development will be one of the projects
Guwahati, Oct. 5: Public-private partnership (PPP) mode of projects seem to have accelerated in Assam with the Centre giving the go-ahead to 10 projects in the state.
The empowered committee on public-private partnerships in the state had identified 18 projects which were referred to the department of economic affairs under the Union ministry of finance.
“The department of economic affairs has identified 10 of the 18 projects for which feasibility studies will be carried out,” a senior official in the planning and development department told The Telegraph.
The feasibility studies will be funded by the Indian Infrastructure Project Development Fund, administered by the department of economic affairs, under which they will bear 75 per cent of the project development costs, that is, the cost of engaging consultants to prepare detailed project reports. The rest of the costs would be borne by the state government.
The 18 identified projects are in different spheres, a majority being located in Guwahati.
Some of the projects in Guwahati include setting up a logistics park, development of jail land, Brahmaputra riverfront development project and water meter installation, among others.
A source said once these projects were structured on a public-private partnership model, they would be eligible for 20 per cent assistance under the viability gap funding scheme of the department of economic affairs.
“The Centre has assured the state government of providing viability gap funding to each of these projects as and when they are applied for,” the source said.
Public-private partnerships refer to an agreement between the government and the private sector regarding provisions of public services or infrastructure.
Public-private partnership models can be classified into four broad categories — supply and management contracts, turnkey projects, lease and concessions and private ownership of assets.
A management contract is a contractual arrangement for the management of a part or whole of a public enterprise by the private sector. Under turnkey category, a private contractor is selected through a bidding process and he designs and builds a facility for a fixed fee, rate or total cost, which is one of the key criteria in selecting the winning bid. In lease category, an operator (the leaseholder) is responsible for operating and maintaining the infrastructure facility and services, but is generally not required to make any large investments. In concessions category, the government defines and grants specific rights to an entity to build and operate a facility for a fixed period.


adb largesse for assam floods

Green signal for $120m flood project
- Decks cleared for ADB funds
Guwahati, Oct. 4: The decks have been cleared for approval of the $120 million ADB-funded Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program as negotiations with Assam and the Centre have been completed.
“We have completed the negotiations with the Assam government and the Government of India on the project. The Government of India has also recently approved the detailed project reports for Dibrugarh and Palasbari subprojects,” Kenichi Yokoyama, agriculture, natural resources and social services division, South Asia department, ADB, told this correspondent in an email.
The ADB board’s calendar has put October 19 as the date for approval of the project. The board calendar reflects the schedule of formal board discussions and is a clear indication that the loan is being approved.
The loan will be given in two tranches.
The approval for the detailed project report for the Kaziranga subproject is under process.
The project is needed to support the Assam government’s initiatives to adopt specific steps for more effective management of flood and river erosion problems with along-term integrated perspective.
The project will provide enhanced resilience to flood and riverbank erosion risks in the three subproject areas (Dibrugarh, Palasbari and Kaziranga) along the Brahmaputra, benefiting nearly a million people.
The project document prepared by the bank says structural measures will focus on existing embankment systems protecting key urban and productive rural areas and updating requirements against river erosion.
Significant emphasis will also be placed on establishing sound data and knowledge base to effectively manage or respond to the dynamic natural river processes while not disturbing them as much as possible.
The state government, through cabinet endorsement, has established the Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Agency for executing the programme, an autonomous body anchored to water resources department with a multi-disciplinary structure, stable leadership, high-level oversight, and timely funds flow.
While Assam has flood embankment systems protecting 50 per cent of its flood prone areas, their effectiveness is limited because of deterioration associated with poor maintenance, riverbed rise and failure from river erosion.
Environmental impact assessments have been carried out for the three subproject areas covering their entire scope.
“Overall, the three subprojects are needed primarily to safeguard the people, property and environment from frequent floods of the Brahmaputra river and are strongly supported by the stakeholders. Positive environmental impacts include preservation of flora and fauna from the impact of river erosion and flooding including wetlands, pond fisheries and agriculture land. Interventions near Kaziranga will preserve the wildlife habitat by preventing the impacts of sudden flooding (from embankment breach). No damage is anticipated on endangered species like dolphins as well as Kaziranga National Park,” the bank says.


funds for assam tiger reserves

Funds for Assam tiger reserves
- Delhi releases first instalment, seeks use according to agreement
Ray of hope
Guwahati, Sept. 30: The Centre has released the first instalment of conservation funds sanctioned for three tiger reserves in Assam with the rider that they utilise it according to the agreement signed with it and Dispur last year.
The Centre has released Rs 573.08 lakh for the current fiscal, of which Rs 272.72 lakh will go to Kaziranga, Rs 237.50 lakh to Manas and Rs 63.58 lakh to Nameri. The order for the fund release was passed on Tuesday.
The total amount sanctioned under Project Tiger for the three reserves for this fiscal is Rs 903.55 lakh, of which the lion’s share has gone to Kaziranga (Rs 448.15 lakh), followed by Manas (Rs 356.08 lakh) and Nameri (Rs 99.32 lakh).
The release order states that Dispur should make the funds available to the tiger reserves within two weeks of its receipt. It would also require to furnish regularly in its monthly report, both in physical and financial terms, the implementation of work as mentioned in the sanction letter. Dispur will have to submit its performance-cum-achievement report on or before March 31 next year.
The Centre, however, stressed the funds be utilised as per the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the field directors of the three tiger reserves and the state government for implementing tiger conservation initiatives as proposed in the annual plan of preparations, with due compliance with normative guidelines and advisories.
The MoU includes the drawing up of a security plan in accordance with the reserves’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and to ensure intelligence-based protection for tigers and other wild animals as well as the habitat.
Sources said the chief wildlife warden and the principal chief conservator of forests have been asked to conduct field inspections from time to time to ensure that the field work is undertaken in accordance with the management plan and the annual plan of operation.
Manas has been given a deep freezer for preservation of tiger carcass. “As some time would be required for investigation of the death of a tiger by experts, the carcass should be kept in a deep freezer,” a Manas official said.
Kaziranga has been given sanction for procurement of GPS sets, standard type night vision device, solar lighting systems, life jacket and reward to informers and staff, among other things.
Nameri has been sanctioned money for the purchase of a projector for public awareness and meetings.
Manas has been categorised a “poor” tiger reserve by the Centre as it has a low density of the animal. Sources said the estimated number of tigers in Manas is 15-18.
Kaziranga, which recently claimed to have the highest density of tigers in the world, has been categorised as “good” while Nameri has been given “satisfactory” tag.