25 percent of Orang national park "most suitable" for rhinos


25% of Orang suitable for rhinos: Study


Guwahati, May 30: Only 25 per cent area is “most suitable” for rhinos in Orang National Park, which has forced the park authorities to think of measures to increase the habitat.

This has been revealed in a study on evaluation of habitat suitability for rhinos in Orang National Park by Pranjit Kumar Sarma, a GIS expert of Aaranyak and other organisations.

The study, using satellite imagery of November 2008, was published in International Scholarly Research Network Ecology journal.

The park, covering an area of 78.8 square km, is a prime habitat for rhinos on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. This park, which has 64 rhinos, is also a prime habitat for other endangered species like tigers, elephants and deer.

The fluctuating population of rhinos in Orang from 35 in 1972 to 97 in 1991 and 64 in 2009 reinforced the need for habitat suitability evaluation to identify key habitat factors and total suitable area for rhinos in the park.

The results of the study show that only 19.81 square km of the park is “most suitable” for rhinos, which covers 25.13 per cent of the total geographical area of the park. This indicates that most suitable habitat for rhinos in the park is not enough for the rhino population.

Rhinos prefer wet alluvial grassland, which plays a critical role in their habitat , throughout the year.

The “moderately suitable” habitat for rhinos in the park is 10.74 square km, which is 13.62 per cent of the total geographical area of the park. Moderately suitable habitat is characterised by dry savannah grassland.

The area covered by “less suitable” habitat is 48.25 square km, which is 61.23 per cent of the total geographical area of the park. Out of 48.45 square km of less suitable habitat for rhinos, 5.78 square km is covered by the Brahmaputra, 5.77 square km is covered by degraded grassland, and 5.39 square km is covered by river sands.

The results are based on a yearlong field survey conducted in the park from September 2008 to understand the habitat utilisation pattern of rhinos in different seasons. Wildlife habitat suitability analysis is considered as the most important criteria for conservation and management of wildlife and its habitat. Suitability analysis includes a wide variety of factors like habitat pattern and quality, distance from road, availability of water and topography.

The divisional forest officer of Orang National Park, S.K. Daila, said he could comment on the report only after reading the article. “An accuracy assessment of habitat suitability map was done based on rhino presence and absence and relationship with habitat suitability and rhino sighting and the results have been validated,” Sarma said.

The study recommended that immediate action should be taken to conserve the existing suitable habitat and measures should also be taken to expand the most suitable habitat of the park from 25 per cent to at least 40 to 45 per cent of the total geographical area of the park.

The park managers should also take the initiative to increase the wet alluvial grassland habitat in the park, which rhinos prefer the most throughout the year.


NE India might have to pay more for centrally sponsored schemes

 The Northeast states will have to pay like other states for centrally sponsored schemes if the Planning Commission has its way.
The commission, in its approach paper to the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17), has stated that the share of special category states in centrally sponsored schemes was not uniform as the northeastern states contribute only 10 per cent while states like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, contribute what states under the general category do.
There are 11 special category states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
The 12th Finance Commission had recommended 90 per cent grants and 10 per cent loan formula for the northeastern states for centrally sponsored schemes and external aid. The other special category states get 70 per cent grants and 30 per cent loan for centrally sponsored schemes.
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had raised the issue of disparity among special category states in funding for the centrally sponsored schemes at the 55th meeting of the National Development Council in July 2010, saying there was no logic behind such differentiation.
The objective of centrally sponsored schemes is to address issues of national priority with focus on human development, poverty alleviation and rural backwardness. Funds for these schemes are transferred from the Centre to the states and the responsibility of implementing them lies with the states.
The general argument put forward by the Planning Commission in its concept note on rationalisation of centrally sponsored schemes is that it is its persistent effort to reduce and rationalise the schemes for effective administration at the ultimate ground level as a large amount of investments are made on this without adequate evaluation on the impact of these schemes on the beneficiaries.
The commission has called for reducing the number of centrally sponsored schemes to a few major ones, irrespective of any region.
Reacting to the commission’s proposal to increase the share of northeastern states in funding the centrally sponsored schemes, FiNER president R.S. Joshi told The Telegraph: “If the Northeast was to pay as others for getting money from centrally sponsored schemes, it would be ruined. We are not at all prepared for it as generating resources is difficult.”
A senior Assam government official said the commission’s recommendation could not and would not be accepted, as it would be disastrous. “This argument has been going on for some time but it cannot be accepted,” he said.
Economist and former Asian Development Bank (ADB) director Jayanta Madhab said it was time for the issue to be reviewed and the Northeast states could make a case. “The issue of utilisation of funds should also be seen,” he added.
A senior official in the North Eastern Council (NEC) said the region had always been favoured but they were not using the funds they had received properly. “States are not willing to pay even the 10 per cent share for getting money under the centrally sponsored schemes,” the official said. Sources said it was extremely difficult for the states of the Northeast to pay even 10 per cent.
“It is too early to reverse the decision. We never got the big investments, people here do not get loans easily,” economist Amiya Sharma, who is the executive director of Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi, said.
A Planning Commission team will visit the Northeast to get the region’s views on the approach paper. In the 2010-11 fiscal, 139 centrally sponsored schemes were in operation throughout the country. In 2011-12, five schemes have not been provided with any outlay, reducing the number of effective schemes to 134.
The commission also stated in its note that there were many schemes and programmes which were continuing year after year and, accordingly, budgetary support was being provided to these schemes only to achieve a set of pre-stated objectives of these schemes/programmes.
“Very limited effort is taken to justify the need of the scheme/programmes’ continuing operation for the next financial year. Sometimes non-achievement of stated objectives is given as the sole justification for the continuation of the schemes,” the note stated.


Northeast india registers fastest microfinance growth


The Northeast has witnessed phenomenal growth in the microfinance sector in the last fiscal, registering the fastest growth rate in the country, which prompted foreign companies into buying stakes in local companies.
This is, indeed, a rare phenomenon in a region that happens to be one of the most financially neglected areas in the country.
The success of the microfinance sector can be attributed to the fact that it fills the huge void left by banks, as only 32 per cent of the population here have deposit accounts.
Moreover, the microfinance institutions provide easy loans, albeit at slightly higher interest rates, to people who have no bank access, that is, around 68 per cent of the population, and that too, right on their doorstep.
Microfinance is a provision of thrift, credit and other financial services and products of very small amounts to the poor, enabling them to raise their income levels and improve living standards.
Though the concentration of microfinance activity in the Northeast is the lowest among all regions of the country, the region witnessed 163.62 per cent growth last year — the highest in the country as compared to other regions.
A number of national players are also entering the microfinance sector in the region after gauging the potential for business.
Interestingly, the sector has come up on its own without any major government intervention.
The Rs 3,800crore sector, however, is largely confined to Assam and some parts of Manipur and Tripura.
The figures were quoted in the report of the Y.H. Malegam committee, constituted by the RBI to review the sector. The RBI has also accepted the report, released this year.
Rupali Kalita, managing director of Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi (NE) Microfinance Limited, told The Telegraph that there was no dearth of companies willing to invest in the sector, and added that it was a large growing market offering a win-win scenario to all.
Opportunity International, an international non-profit microfinance organisation, has bought a Rs 3crore equity stake in Nidhi, a RBI-licensed non-banking financial company.
Before that, Incofin from Belgium had bought a Rs 8crore stake in Asomi Finance Private Limited, another Assam-based microfinance organisation.
Nidhi, which is receiving a lot of offers from investors, is planning to extend its services throughout the region. It is currently weighing an offer from the UK-based Agora Microfinance Company that has shown interest in buying a stake in Nidhi. “We have to look towards the interests of our clients as we are considering offers from foreign companies to buy equity,” Kalita said.
The demand for microcredit in the region is so high that it is a cinch that investors will reap good returns.
A report — Microfinance Vision 2015 Northeast Region - brought out by ACCESS Development Services, has estimated the total annual microcredit demand in the region between Rs 2,290 crore to Rs 3,800 crore, 70 per cent of which emanates from Assam.
The report also points to a substantial gap in the demand for microfinance — between 74 to 85 per cent — leaving room for many more players to enter the sector.
Oikocredit, a Netherlands-based organisation, has provided Rs 2crore as loan to Nightingale Charitable Society, a Guwahati-based urban microfinance company. “We had applied for assistance from banks but there was little response,” Mantu Sharma of the society said and added that none of the loans provided by the society had run into default in the last couple of years.
Abhijit Sharma, a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Bank Management, Guwahati, said microfinance had succeeded because banks had failed to reach people on time. “The loans, small in value, are given quickly and with less transaction cost,” he said, adding that people pay back on time as they know that they would get more loans at their doorstep.


Hunt for big cat in Karbi hills in Assam


Hunt begins for the big cat
- First comprehensive tiger survey in Karbi Anglong district ROOPAK GOSWAMI
Guwahati, May 24: Is it there? Or is it not? It is time for some answers as WWF India officials have for the first time begun a hunt for tigers in Karbi Anglong.
Twenty-five cameras are being placed at the Marat Longri wildlife sanctuary for this study to find big cats, the first comprehensive tiger sign survey in Karbi Anglong.
The Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong has been identified as a priority tiger landscape and is among the top 12 in the world.
The work on the survey, which will encompass nearly 2,000 square km in Karbi Anglong and will take around a month, has started from Monday with the forest department providing all necessary support to the team.
“There is hope for finding tiger signs,” Jimmy Borah, assistant coordinator Tiger programme WWF India, said. Kaziranga, bordering Karbi Anglong, has the world’s highest density of tigers at 32.64 tigers per 100 square km. The WWF team had just returned from Arunachal Pradesh.
The survey also holds importance for tigers in Kaziranga as it is shares a border with Karbi Anglong. “For the survival of tigers in Kaziranga, Karbi Anglong is important as we would like to know the habitat there,” tiger expert Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak said.
The 451square km Marat Longri, which was declared a wildlife sanctuary in April 2003, is an important component of Dhansiri-Lumding elephant reserve. The survey will also examine the elephant status and habitat.
Last year, forest department authorities of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India, had started a reforestation drive to restore parts of encroached land in the Marat Longri wildlife sanctuary.
Karbi Anglong, the largest district in Assam with its five wildlife sanctuaries and two elephant reserves, plays a vital role in the protection and conservation of natural resources of the state.
A forest official said the corridors linking Kaziranga with the forests of Karbi Anglong have suffered extensive degradation because of encroachment, illegal logging, stone mining, growing settlements and tourist movements, which have severely disrupted wildlife movement, particularly during the flood season.
A report on Monitoring Tiger and Prey Animals of Kaziranga National Park, by Aaranyak, with technical support from Wildlife Institute of India last year, said gaur — one of the major prey species of tigers — which was common in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape, has nearly disappeared from the Kaziranga National Park.
The primary reason for this depletion could be hunting in Karbi Anglong.
The report has suggested a scientific study in the hills of Karbi Anglong to address the issue of establishment of protected areas and protection of wildlife from hunting.
The State of the Forest Report, 2009, had found that the district had lost 37 square km of forest cover, compared to the 2007. Insurgency and shifting cultivation are the main reasons for this decline of forest cover in the district.
After covering Marat Longri wildlife sanctuary, the WWF team will then go to Lumding and Dhansiri areas.
Firoz Ahmed, a tiger expert with Aaranyak, said a lot of research work needed to be done on tigers in Assam as issues like genetic diversity are yet to be delved into.


Army in Assam to drink Purabi milk


Army personnel in Assam would soon be drinking milk supplied by WAMUL( West Assam Milk Producers' Cooperative Union Limited) a Guwahati- based milk cooperative making it now a force to reckon with.

A few years back, nobody would have thought of WAMUL which sells milk and milk products under Purabi brand name to do as it was in shambles.

Army officials from Delhi had met Managing Director of WAMUL M Thakur to discuss the probability of WAMUL supplying milk to its establishments in Assam.

"We have agreed to do it but it will take four months time as it will require
refurbishment of our infrastructure" Thakur said.

Army wants 30,000 litres of milk daily from the cooperative.

Thakur said the request from the Army was based on the feeback on the milk quality supplied to them.

At present WAMUL which produces milk and milk products under Purabi brand name provides
milk to army establishements in the city and Tezpur.

The milk cooperative supplies 3000 litres to army establishments in the city and in

The total milk supplied by WAMUL is 30,000 litres daily to Guwahati and neighbouring
areas. The plant has the capacity to handle 40,000 litres of milk.

In order to provide the milk supply to army, the cooperative will be spending Rs 2 crores
to improve its infrastructure and the entire plant will be now an automated plant which
will have the capacity to deliver quickly.

The refurbished plant will have the capacity to handle one lakh litres of milk daily.

Thakur said this contract would redeem the image of WAMUL in the milk market and give it
more confidence to develop new products and get more clients.

The Army has agreed to take the milk from the Purabi dairy and transport it to its locations on its own.

Wamul is now supplying milk to six places in Assam barring defence supplies. The six places are Guwahati, Nagaon, Jorhat, Nalbari, Rangia and Sonapur.

The process of revival of WAMUL came after the signing of a tripartite agreement between Assam government, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the West Assam Milk Producers` Co-operative Union Ltd (WAMUL) in 2008.

The agreement is for a period of five years and both the state government and NDDB have

agreed to run WAMUL in accordance with sound business principles and on commercial lines.

The cooperative has also established a bulk milk cooler in Changsari on the outskirts of the city which will provide a systematic way of milk procurement from nearby areas and also in increasing the shelf life of milk.

Milk can be stored for 48 hours in the bulk milk cooler with a 2,000-litre capacity.

Milk is being procured from Hajo, Rangia, Pathsala and now Darrang has also been included.

According to the latest Draft Codex International Code of Hygienic Practice for Milk and Milk Products from Codex Secretariat, if the milk is not processed within two hours of milking, it is required to be cooled to a temperature below 7 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the dairies that have to market their milk and milk products in the international market will have to comply with the code and the cold chain will become a must for them.

The system will eliminate the use of milk cans, help prevent milk from turning sour, reduce transportation costs and ensure better returns.


landslide congress to focus on northeast india

Landslide congress to focus on Northeast
- Two-day meet in September will discuss warning system and hazard-zone mappings

Guwahati, May 20: The governments of the northeastern states have failed to take measures to prevent landslides despite the fact that more than 50 landslides occur every year in the region.

However, come September, the Northeast, which has 20 per cent of the landslide-prone areas of the country, will be the focus of the second Indian Landslide Congress to be held in Guwahati.

The meeting, on the theme Seismicity and Landslides, will discuss site-specific case studies, including monitoring and early warning system, landslide hazard-zone mapping and seismically induced landslides.

“There is a lack of priority given to this task by the state governments. The PWDs have been entrusted with the task of restoring communication by clearing the landslides as and when they occur,” a member of the council, P.P. Shrivastav, said.

The two-day congress on September 15 and 16 is being organised by the North Eastern Council (NEC).

Nearly 458 landslides have take place in the Northeast between 2001and 2009 — yet the governments in northeastern states are not according it top priority.

The Geological Survey of India, the nodal agency for landslides in the country, has also prepared a hazard zone map of a number of places in the region.

Shrivastav said the first Indian Landslides Congress held at Lucknow in November took serious note of the acute problem of landslides in the Northeast. It decided to hold the second congress in Guwahati, which would be devoted exclusively to the problem of landslides in the Northeast.

Experts from Geological Survey of India, state disaster management authorities of the region and the North East Institute of Science and Technology, Jorhat, will attend the meeting. Major communication links are disrupted year after year in the region by landslides cutting off vital movements and supply lines.

Landslides in Guwahati have claimed many lives and caused a lot of destruction, displacing many people from their homes in the past.

The Sonapur landslide, an old and active huge rock-cum-debris slide on National Highway 44 near Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, becomes active almost every year, particularly during the monsoon, blocking the highway, which is the lifeline of southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya.

Experts say landslides in the region mostly occur along the road-cuts — made by cutting into a hillside. These road-cuts destabilise the hillside, causing landslides that damage homes and highways. The landslips also occur in the rural and urban areas because of the construction of roads.

Landslides, studied during the past two decades, have been categorised in 10 types: (i) planar failure, (ii) wedge failure, (iii) rock fall, (iv) debris slide, (v) subsidence, (vi) minor slip, (vii) slump, (viii) creep, (ix) earthquake induced landslides and (x) unclassified.

The Tawang monastery is also facing problems as landslides triggered by rainfall has ripped away the entire chunk of landmass below it.

The National Disaster Management Authority has issued guidelines to institutionalise landslide hazard mitigation efforts, to make people aware of the various aspects of landslide hazard in the country and to prepare them to take suitable action which would reduce risks and costs associated with this hazard.


Nod to border fence near tiger reserve in Mizoram

Nod to border fence near tiger reserve
- National security fears prompt move
Guwahati, May 10: The National Board for Wildlife has given its nod to the construction of a 62-km fence and patrol road along the Bangladesh boundary near Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram keeping in view the interest of national security.

Last year, an expert team constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority had opposed the construction of the fence and patrol road near the tiger reserve, stressing that it would impact the movement of animals.

A source said a site inspection team in its report, submitted to the National Board for Wildlife, has called for a detailed survey which needs to be undertaken by the BSF, involving representatives of the state government and the tiger reserve authorities.

It said the fence and road should be built as close as possible along the international boundary to minimise the loss of animal habitat at the 500 square km tiger reserve, which was brought under Project Tiger in 1994.

The ministry of home affairs had plans to construct a three-line wire fencing, besides seven border outposts.

The inspection team also recommended that road and border outposts should be on the Bangladesh side to ensure that the Dampa tiger reserve habitat remains sacrosanct and free from disturbance.

The team said the requisite forest clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, should be obtained only after the exact area involved in the project is worked out.

The ministry of home affairs has informed the National Board for Wildlife that the road as well as the fencing was of utmost importance to stop the infiltration from Bangladesh.

Besides, the spot had been chosen from three alternatives because it involved minimal destruction of forestland and trees, besides being technically feasible.

The National Board for Wildlife has now written to the ministry of home affairs about the recommendations of the site inspection team.


IIM Shillong topper drops corporate offer; joins business

IIM topper shuns plum job offers
- Youth decides to set up his own business rather than work for giant firms

Guwahati, May 10: Manav Jain, this year’s gold medallist at IIM Shillong, would rather be a “Ratan Tata than work for him”.

Though the country’s youngest IIM has shown a better placement record than in the previous year, with the average compensation package on campus being around 12.36 lakh per annum, Jain opted out of the whole interview procedure.

“I opted out of placements because I believed that I can serve myself better by getting into something of my own, rather than working for a corporate. I have been a topper throughout, be it in school, college or MBA, and have confidence in my capabilities. This is why I opted out of corporate placements,” said the 23-year-old who has entrepreneurship running in his blood.

“My inspiration has been my father. He always told me to become big myself rather than work for someone big. I would rather be Ratan Tata than work for him. This way, I can someday dream to be that big,” Jain told The Telegraph over phone from New Delhi.

Jain, who studied at Modern School, Delhi, and completed his graduation from Sri Ram College of Commerce, got the gold medal for his all-round performance at IIM Shillong. He will be working with his father for a year or so to understand business — the family runs Rakesh Papers Private Limited in Delhi which has a turnover of Rs 15 crore — and then look for further scope for expansion and growth.

Jain’s decision would surprise many in IIM Shillong since the institute has attracted better and bigger firms this year.

Nearly 16 new companies took part in the placement process, a mark of IIM Shillong’s growing stature.

There has been a great rush from the banking and financial sectors, which constituted 43 per cent of the offers on campus.

The range of profiles varied from investment banking, equity research, project advisory, consumer banking, wholesale banking, capital markets — the recruiters being Nomura Investments, Standard Chartered, HSBC, ICICI Bank, YES Bank, DE Shaw and SBI Capital.

“With the presence of first time recruiters like Procter and Gamble, which offered profiles across their product supply and customer business development functions, 27 per cent of the offers were made in the functional areas of marketing and operations. Other than Procter and Gamble in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, Godfrey Phillips India offered roles in marketing. From the Tata Group, companies like Titan and Tata Steel made offers in areas of marketing and supply chain,” the official said.

Jain, too, batted for the institute.

“IIM Shillong being a new institute is indeed a very good place to be in. It gives you the freedom to do a lot many things, which institutes with formalised systems do not offer. I got to learn a lot from this place,” he said.

Security costs add to woes of power projects in Northeast india

Review Loktak security, Delhi told
Guwahati, May 8: The North Eastern Regional Power Committee has requested the Union ministry of home affairs to review the decision to replace CRPF with Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel at Loktak power station in Manipur.

The NHPC had requested the committee to take up the issue with the ministry of home affairs as the deployment of the CISF jawans is an expensive affair.

Sources said according to the decision taken by ministry of home affairs, the CRPF jawans deployed at Loktak power station were being withdrawn and the CISF were to be inducted for its security henceforth.

According to the survey conducted by the CISF, around 795 personnel were required for the security of the power station as intimated by the director-general of the CISF, vide its letter on March 4.

On January 1, 1977, the Loktak project, with an installed capacity of 105MW (3x35), was transferred to NHPC Limited. The Loktak power station is supplying power to Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.

At present, five companies of the CRPF are deployed on the Loktak power station premises.

Sources said the decision to replace CRPF would pose a serious threat to the operation of the power station as handing over the security of the project to CISF, which is not equipped for anti-insurgency operations, would create panic.

It will be extremely difficult to operate the power station, the source said.

The CRPF jawans stay in the surplus barracks and as such the power station was not incurring any expenditure towards security. However, by deploying CISF, the power station will have to bear the burden of around Rs 28 crore per annum towards recurring and non-recurring expenditure for deployment of the 795 personnel. The NHPC also has to meet infrastructure expenditure like construction of buildings, modern security gadgets, office automation and others.

“This would inflate the operation cost adversely and will lead to increase tariff of the power station,” the source said.

The North Eastern Regional Power Committee is the apex power organisation in the Northeast which co-ordinates planning of maintenance of generating machines of various generating companies of the region, including inter-state generating companies supplying electricity to the region on an annual basis. It also undertakes review of maintenance programme on a monthly basis. The committee evolves a consensus on all issues related to economy and efficiency of the operation of the power system in the region.