Nothing to worry on Subansiri, says NHPC


Under fire from many quarters on the safety of the 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project, the NHPC today said there is no reason for the people of the state to 'worry' as it has been vetted by concerned agencies of the country.
" They should not worry as detailed studies have been undertaken by topmost agencies and all of them have vetted the project" a senior NHPC official looking after Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project said. The Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project which is now under construction is the biggest hydro project not only in India but in South East Asia also.
" We should believe in some authority. If we donot believe there is no end then. There has been no case of dam failure uptil now " the official said adding that it has commissioned 14 projects. Ten more projects are under commissioning at various places in the country.
The official said the company has built dams higher the present Subansiri project which is still under construction and there have been no problems. The Chamera hydroelectric project in Himachal Pradesh where the dam height is 141 metres and the 118 metre high dam of Salal project in Jammu and Kashmir is functioning perfectly.
The Subansiri Lower project with 8 units of 250 MW, each, is a run-of-river scheme, on the river Subansiri.
"Some groups are exploiting the situation by saying that the project is unsafe. This is completely untrue " he said adding that combined effort of Centre and state is required for the early commissioning of the project.
A steering committee has already been constituted by NHPC on request from the state government which will be suggesting remedial measures on the downstream impact of the project.
" There have been two sittings already. The report would be a comprehensive one which will look into the downstream impact and suggest remedial measures" the official said. Members of the committee have travelled from downstream of the project right to the confluence of Subansiri river.
The Assam government is also preparing a detailed project report for protection of villages downstream of the Subansiri river in the event of a dam breach on the project.
Allaying fears of downstream impact, the official said there will be flood cushioning and the project has the capacity to absorb 425 million cubic metres of water. " We will lower the reservoir level to 15 metres in the monsoon months and adequate warning will be given" the official said.
The expert committee on the downstream impact had recommended for proper and adequate flood cushioning to be kept in the reservoir to minimize the dam-induced flash flood like in Ranganadi project of NEEPCO. It had also recommeded installation of warning system along both banks downstream of the dam site up to confluence of the Subansiri river with the Brahmaputra river for timely evacuation of downstream population in event of catastrophic flood.
The company is worried on the delay in commissioning of the project. The project is already three years behind the schedule and is trying hard to get the projectcommissioned atleast by 2014.
On Assam still not signing the memorandum of agreement, the official said negotiations are still going on. Discussions are going on with the administration for early release of turbines.
On the power allocation, the official said Assam will get 250 MW and can get more as negotiations are still underway. " Assam will benefit the most from the project" the official. 1000 MW power from the project is for the Northeast.
The project when it gets commissioned by 2014 would be costing a whopping Rs 10,500 crore. Five thousand crores have already been spent.
The official said 50 percent of the work has already been completed and most of the 'challenges' have been overcome. The problem of landslides has been taken care of.


Mithun rearing in Arunachal Pradesh
Scientific rearing of mithun in Arunachal
Guwahati: The National Research Centre on Mithun will carry out artificial insemination of the animal in Arunachal Pradesh, where it is recognised as the state animal.
The director of the centre, Chandan Rajkhowa, said the institute would carry out the programme in Arunachal Pradesh under the Twelfth Plan, besides intensifying it in Nagaland, where they had carried it out earlier.
The NRC, which works under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, is based at Medziphema in Dimapur district of Nagaland.
“The institute has now developed a protocol for carrying out artificial insemination, which has become one of the most important techniques ever devised for the genetic improvement of farm animals like cattle and buffalo,” Rajkhowa said.
According to the 2007 census, the mithun (Bos frontalis) population in Arunachal Pradesh is 2,18,931 and 33,385 in Nagaland. The animal is reared at altitudes ranging between 300 to 3,000 metres above the sea level.
The indigenous people use the animal in sacred traditional ceremonies and as a gift to the bride in weddings. Owning a mithun is also a matter of pride in the region.
Rajkhowa said the institute would transfer the technology to the Nagaland government for practising it on a larger scale.
The mithun-breeding policy of Arunachal Pradesh, under the state’s Livestock and Poultry Breeding Policy 2008, had recommended pure breeding of the animal for conservation, increase in population and improvement in milk and meat production.
Under the traditional system, the bulls available in the herd are used for breeding. However, the policy recommends breeding with bulls of superior genetic merit.
Rajkhowa said since there was no system to replace bulls at regular intervals to maintain the genetic quality, some alternative way for breeding was required and this could be achieved easily through artificial insemination. The centre executed a detailed plan to standardise the procedure for semen collection, preservation and artificial insemination of mithun. This was done successfully at the farm level but it was necessary to take it to the farmer’s field.
Accordingly, an effort was made to percolate this technology to the farmers. A mithun-rearing area of Khonoma village in Kohima district of Nagaland was selected for the programme and two healthy calves were born last year.
The institute has been trying to motivate people to take up mithun farming, through scientific rearing, as a viable commercial venture since the animal has got a good potential for production of quality meat, milk and leather.
This rare species of livestock is reared by the indigenous population in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, as well as in neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh.


Black pika sighted in Arunachal

Black pika sighted in Arunachal
- WWF-India research team stumbles upon rare mammal at 13000ft
Guwahati, July 14: A team of WWF-India officials working in West Kameng district of Arunchal Pradesh has stumbled upon a rare species of mammals that, till now, was believed to be endemic to Yunan province of China.
The black pika (ochotona nigritia), a close cousin of rabbits and hares, is a small mammal with short limbs, rounded ears, a short tail and, as the name suggests, is covered in black fur. Another distinctive feature of the pika is its high-pitched distress call, which it makes when diving into its borrow on being threatened by predators. It was discovered in China in 2000.
The divisional forest officer of Bomdila, Surabhi Rai, while revealing that the mammal had been sighted for the first time in India, told The Telegraph, “The WWF team informed me about the discovery yesterday.”
She said the discovery would not only make the area important, but also open up endless opportunities for wildlife researchers. “Earlier, the mammal was thought to be found only in China, but now it has also been found here. This is an important discovery as it would provide more knowledge about the species,” she added.
The WWF members sighted two black pikas in Pangila and Potok areas at an altitude of 13,000 feet on June 22 and 23 while they, along with villagers of Thembang, were conducting surveys in the Thembang Bapu community-conserved forest area in West Kameng district. The survey was part of a project for development of a management plan of the area.
Senior landscape coordinator for the Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme of WWF, Pijush Kumar Dutta, said, “We took photographs of the mammals, and after returning, consulted experts for identification of the species, based on its external features.”He said though the mammal discovered in Arunachal resembled the black pika found in China, genetic cross-examination was required to confirm whether it was the same black pika or a new sub-species.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has listed the black pika under the “data deficient” category since it is a relatively new discovery and there is still very little information on its extent of occurrence, status, threats and ecological requirements. There is also no data on the current population of black pikas in the world. “Like many of the smaller mammals living at high altitudes, the burrows which the black pika make to live in are used by other species like birds, reptiles and other smaller mammals,” Dutta said.
“ The pika also plays a key role as prey for various high altitude predators like birds of prey and small and large carnivores,” Dutta said.
The herbivorous pikas are members of ochotonidae, one of two families in the order lagomorpha, the other being the leporidae family (rabbits and hares).
Arunachal Pradesh, with the eastern Himalayan ranges extending into its western part and its wide range of endangered and endemic flora and fauna, is among the 200 globally important eco-regions of the world.
The western Arunachal landscape covers nearly 7,000 square km in the West Kameng and Tawang districts of the state. “Though the terrain is difficult, we are making new discoveries whenever we go out for exploration. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as we believe many more discoveries will follow,” Dutta said.


WHC asks Manas for report by 2012

Heritage panel seeks Manas report
Guwahati, July 10: The World Heritage Committee has asked the Centre to inform it by next year whether the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation is operational and financial arrangements are in place for the site.
Sources said the committee had asked for the report by February 1 next year for examination at its 36th session in 2012.
The committee in its report said sustained finance to the site remains a critical long-term requirement to secure its full recovery.
It urged the authorities to ensure that the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation was made operational as soon as possible and that funding for the property from the Centre was channelled through the foundation to avoid future delays in the transfer of funds to the property.
The Centre has informed the committee that the proposal for the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation is currently awaiting Parliament approval, which is expected to come soon.
Though the foundation was formed two years back, it has still not been operationalised.
“All the hard work seems to have gone in vain and it is now nearly two years but the foundation has still not been operationalised,” a park official said.
The joint IUCN/Unesco monitoring mission, which visited the park in January this year, had pointed out that though lack of funds had not prevented activities necessary to allow recovery of the outstanding universal value of the site, the situation would have been much better if the funds-release problem had been fully addressed.
The slow release of funds for the site from the state government is an issue that has been raised by all previous Unesco/IUCN monitoring missions since 1997.
In fact, in 2009 and 2010 the park management was forced to operate for two years on one year’s budget as the state released the funds at the end of the year, rather than disbursing them directly to Manas at the time of receipt from the federal government.
A 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court states that funds must be released by the state government within 15 days of receipt from the Centre but this has not been implemented in the case of Manas.
Every year, the park management has to submit three annual plans of operation — one for project tiger, biosphere scheme and elephant project, but unfortunately the release of funds is sometimes delayed which has a serious impact on the efficient implementation of management activities.
The monitoring mission had also found the majority of available cash flow to the site comes from the BTC of which a major proportion of these funds is spent on staff salaries.
The park has also been asked to submit a comprehensive tourism management plan and a recovery plan for swamp deer by February 1 next year.


WHC worried over Kaziranga future


 The raging debate in Assam over construction of big dams in the Northeast seems to have drawn the attention of the World Heritage Committee on the future of Kaziranga.

The committee during its 35th meeting that concluded in Paris on June 29, has asked the Centre to keep it informed about any planned developments, including dams, which could have a negative impact on the “outstanding universal value” of Kaziranga national park  in accordance with paragraph 172 of the convention’s operational guidelines.

The committee also expressed regret over the fact that the Centre had neither submitted a report on the state of conservation of the national park nor an environmental impact assessment of the alternatives to the proposed upgrade of NH37, as requested by it after its 33rd session in 2009 and has asked the latter to furnish these reports within February 1, 2012.

It has also asked for data on key wildlife populations of the park and poaching records.

Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention says: “The World Heritage Committee invites the states, parties to the convention, to inform the committee, through the secretariat, of their intention to undertake or to authorise, in an area protected under the Convention, major restorations or new constructions, which may affect the outstanding universal value of the property. Notice should be given as soon as possible (for instance, before drafting basic documents for specific projects) and before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, so that the committee may assist in seeking appropriate solutions to ensure that the outstanding universal value of the property is fully preserved.”

A number of organisations from all over the state have been protesting against construction of big dams in the region, voicing apprehensions about the impact of such dams on the ecology of the downstream areas.

In 2005, a joint paper by Unesco and United Nations Foundation — Opportunities and Challenges for Kaziranga National Park over the Next Fifty Years — had already warned about future threats to the park.

It said the continued survival of Kaziranga National Park over the next century and consolidation of the conservation successes achieved in the last hundred years will depend, to a large extent, on what happens beyond the park’s boundaries and also on ensuring that management options elsewhere, in the river and in the surrounding landscape, do not undermine the ecology and integrity of the park.

In fact, the park is already taking steps to declare an area of 10km around it an eco-sensitive zone to help restrict or prohibit activities that are not conducive to the park’s future. It will also ensure that it does not fall prey to “pressures” like floods, economic activities, climate-change, change in land-use patterns and development of roadways.

Regarding the committee’s allegation about non-submission of the state of conservation report, park director Surajit Dutta told The Telegraph: “We had submitted the report to the Centre through proper channels a long time back.”

On the other hand, the National Highway Authority of India has abandoned its plans to upgrade NH37, which runs along the southern boundary of the park, and is considering a new alignment that will circumvent the park along an existing road on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra.

The good news for Kaziranga, however, is that the committee has received reports from International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that the park authorities have increased efforts to prevent poaching, and that poaching is now largely under control.

The committee has also asked the park authorities to develop and implement a monitoring and management system to curb the spread of invasive species of shrubs like mimosa rubicaulis and mimosa invisa.


Hi tech forensic institute in Northeast India

 N-E to get hi-tech forensic institute


Guwahati, July 6: Forensic scientists in the Northeast will have better tools in hand to support crime investigation agencies as a new state-of-the-art central forensic institute is coming up in Assam to cater to the entire region.
A source said a 30-bigha plot had been allotted by the state government in June for establishment of the institute at Palashbari in Kamrup district. Initially, the demand was for a 20-acre plot.
A source said for starters, the institute, which will be under the ministry of home affairs, would operate from a rented building and have some facilities like DNA analysis, among others. “It should start working in another two months,” the source added.
The institute is coming up as part of the modernisation of forensic science applications scheme of the directorate of forensic science under the ministry.
The source said there had been some delay in starting operations as it took some time to find the rented premises and added that it would be at least two years before the institute could operate from its Palashbari premises.
“The idea is to establish state-of-the-art facilities and also train scientists to update their knowledge to a level which ensures that the forensic support to crime investigation agencies would match international standards,” the source said.
The source said forensic technologies needed to be updated, considering the modern technologies used by criminals to execute crimes and added that the institute, which would be able to provide analyses very fast, would be a big help for crime investigation agencies of the region.
There would be eight hi-tech divisions in the proposed institute, also comprising a wildlife forensic unit.
There will also be a digital forensic division having a credit card analysis unit, handheld device forensic analysis unit, network real-time forensic analysis unit and crime scene and disaster-recovery unit.
The DNA division of the institute will have a DNA analysis unit and a DNA database unit, while the cognitive science division will have a lie-detection unit, narco analysis unit and a brain-mapping unit.
The general forensic science division will have a life sciences unit, analy- tical chemistry unit, physi- cal science unit and a poison analysis unit.
The general document division would have a handwriting examination unit, machine-generated document examination unit and a document matrix examination unit.
Currently, there are forensic science laboratories in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, along with a mini laboratory in Nagaland. The laboratory in Assam is the biggest in the region with 11 independent divisions.

Integrated aoproach for Manas

Manas gears up for integrated approach
Guwahati, July 3: Manas National Park, which recently shed its world heritage site in danger tag, will now work towards an integrated ecosystem-based monitoring of its wildlife population that will allow continuous observation and documentation of a wide range of flora and fauna.
The integrated approach was recommended by the IUCN/Unesco World Heritage monitoring mission, which presented its report at the 35th meeting of the World Heritage Committee that ended in Paris last week. The mission based its report on its visit to the national park from January 24-31.
Thanking the authorities for the efforts made towards wildlife monitoring, the mission said these efforts could greatly benefit from an integrated approach that included analysis and synthesis of information from different kinds of flora and fauna found in the park, rather than only the big mammals.
“By expanding the scope and depth of analysis of such information, Manas would not only have a comprehensive overview of the state of the landscape but it would also serve as an early warning system for the management. This would facilitate evolution of the park management from reacting to scattered individual pieces of information to proactive management of the property as a whole,” the report stated.
Sources said the request had been given a positive nod at all levels and the authorities had started working on it.
Only four key species are currently being monitored in a systematic manner — tiger, elephant, buffalo and one-horned rhino. Population estimates for the other key species like hispid hare, Bengal florican, pygmy hog and swamp deer have also been carried out with varying levels of accuracy.
“Other forms of wildlife are monitored based on a monitoring form filled by the forest guards during their daily patrols. These sightings are compiled in monthly reports from each patrol station and submitted to the field director for his perusal. However, there is currently no mechanism by which these reports can be consolidated and analysed to determine the status of the park system as a whole,” the report said.
The mission recommended that the park should be monitored regularly to ensure that the various issues were addressed timely and the security situation remained stable.
It recommended that the Centre invite a monitoring mission to the park in 2016 to evaluate the progress made, particularly relating to the implementation of integrated monitoring.
The Centre has assured the IUCN/Unesco that funds would flow through the Tiger Conservation Foundation by the next financial year, from April 2012 to March 2013.
The mission considered the approval of the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation as vital in resolving the issue of fund release and recommended that the Centre to make sure that the foundation was operational immediately after approval.
The mission asked both India and Bhutan to do a joint feasibility study on a trans-boundary expansion of the existing property to include larger areas of the landscape on both sides of the international border.
The Indian and Bhutanese park management and staff regularly visit each other to exchange information and can move freely across the border for this purpose.
Both the countries had  for the first time, carried  out camera-trap survey of tigers, covering a total trans-boundary area of 50,000 hectares. Seven tigers have been identified in India of which two have been recaptured in Bhutan.
The mission also recommended the implementation of a swamp deer recovery plan and the inclusion of a 36,000-hectare area, located west of the park, within it as proposed by the BTC.