Namdapha in peril

Namdapha tiger reserve
Reports about rampant hunting and feeble protection measures at the Namdapha tiger reserve have prompted the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to send a five-member fact-finding team to the forest.
The team, comprising two members from the National Board for Wildlife, will study the effectiveness of the monitoring and protection measures at the reserve, over and above looking into the reasons behind the rise in poaching and hunting incidents. It will also study the involvement of local people in the protection and monitoring mechanism at the reserve.
The team, comprising A.J.T. Johnsingh and Prerna Bindra of the board, Gautam Narayan of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, Jyoti Das, consultant, NTCA Guwahati office, and Rajeev Sharma of NTCA Delhi office, has been asked to submit its report within a month.
Sources said the situation had turned worse in the past few days after suspected poachers escaped with eight cameras and a few memory cards used for camera trapping tigers in the reserve.
The equipment belonged to Aaranyak, an NGO, which had deployed 80 cameras in a 300 square km area.
A delayed report reaching here said poachers had also shot at a senior official of the state forest department. “A detailed report will be sent by the department on the incident and on the steps required to restore normality,” a forest department source said.
The source added that the protection network in the reserve was feeble, giving hunters a free run.
“The park needs to improve its protection mechanism from scratch,” said Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak who was involved in the camera trapping initiative.
The 1,985 square km Namdapha tiger reserve in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh was declared a tiger reserve in 1983.
One of the biggest threats to protection and conservation efforts in the reserve is posed by settlements of the Lisu community in its core area. Altogether 84 families of the community, which migrated from Myanmar in the 1930s, are settled in five villages deep inside the forest area.
The management effectiveness evaluation report on the reserve said, “Since they (Lisus) occupy the interior areas, there is no mechanism to monitor their activities. Attempts to relocate them have not yet succeeded because of lack of areas to rehabilitate them together.”
The other threats identified in the park are timber operations in the fringe areas, inadequate manpower and infrastructure development, advanced age of available forest staff and insensitiveness of the local administration towards encroachment and other offences.
The report said the Lisus did not cooperate with the tiger reserve authorities and had even burnt down anti-poaching camps. “There is no protection measure in the areas bordering Myanmar,” the report added.
The six existing patrolling/anti-poaching camps are all on the western part of the reserve, leaving the rest of the park unprotected. The border near the largest Lisu village, Gandhigram, which is closer to villages on the Myanmar border, is also not patrolled.
The report added that there had been multiple seiz-ures of Myanmar-bound tusks and other animal parts from the area, indicating it was bei-ng used as a trafficking route by animal parts smugglers.

First Assam chopper service

Assam chopper service takes wings

 Beginning this week, you can hitch a ride on a chopper from Guwahati to 10 important destinations in Assam. Pocket pinch: Rs 4,000 per person, per ride.
Assam’s first commercial passenger chopper service will take off from Guwahati on Thursday and connect the capital with the Bodo Territorial Council area, Dhemaji, Karbi Anglong, Halflong, Lilabari, Tezpur, Dhubri, Kaziranga, Manas and Majuli daily, saving scores of people the trouble of having to undertake tortuous journeys across the state.
Two seven-seater helicopters, B3 Eurocopter and Bell 407, taken on lease by Rudra GTL, that started a dedicated air cargo service in the Northeast last December, will also fly to north Bengal, Meghalaya and Manipur.
“We have planned to start the helicopter services in Northeast from Guwahati keeping in mind the huge potential in the region which is largely constrained because of the geographical conditions,” Manosijj Roy, director Rudra GTL, told The Telegraph.
Rudra GTL is a joint venture initiative by Rudra Group of Companies and GTL Group of Companies.
Roy said the matter has been discussed with transport minister Chandan Brahma who has encouraged “us to go ahead” with the 30-minute rides.
“Safety measures have been given top priority,” he added.
“Various far-flung districts of the region will be connected to Guwahati through this service. Although the areas have poor road connectivity, they are not very distant from one another. As a result, we are in a position to make multiple sorties between the different stations, thereby reducing the cost per flight, making it a very viable option,” Roy said.
The district administrations have allotted certain areas where choppers copters can land, Roy said. In some areas, helipads will be built over time.
The chopper destinations in Meghalaya, Manipur and north Bengal are Barapani, Imphal and Bagdogra.
Roy said one of the copters, Bell 407, would also be used as a heli-ambulance service to aid the health sector in the Northeast.
“We will be able to provide this service at a much lower rate, increasing its reach to all strata of society. With the inflow of lot of corporate entities in the healthcare sector, we have already tied up with most of the firms to help them avail of our services,” he said.
Tourism is an important sector the service is targeting, with choppers connecting Kaziranga and Manas National Park.
“We have spoken to Asaam Tourism Development Corporation Ltd authorities who have encouraged us to go ahead with it,” he said.
“We have trained people who have been allocated to the various areas to set up and run the operations in co-ordination with the local district administration,” he said.
The Airport Authority of India is also drawing up a plan to expand various airports in the state. The plan includes a parallel runway and taxi track at Guwahati’s Lokpariya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport.
V.P. Agarwal, the AAI chairman, met Tarun Gogoi last month, to discuss the proposed expansion plan for Rowriah airport in Jorhat, Mohanbari airport in Dibrugarh with night-landing facility and revival of Rupshi airport in Dhubri.


Blooming grass has dolphin cruise to its name in Assam

Dolphin  survey boat named after Kahua- autumn grass in Assam

 The snow-white kahua, a kind of blooming grass that that heralds the advent of autumn and Puja, now has a dolphin cruise to its name.
Aaranyak, an NGO that works on the wildlife welfare, has procured a survey boat for dolphin-sighting and conservation and calls it SB Kahua.
Kahua is beautiful grass that grows on the islands and banks of the Brahmaputra in September and October. It is an integral part of the Brahmaputra riverine ecosystem. Therefore, I am naming the boat (white) Kahua with the hope that one day this boat will be a very important part of Brahmaputra ecosystem conservation and will be a flagship effort for dolphin and ecosystem conservation in the Brahmaputra,” said Abdul Wakid, head of Gangetic Dolphin Research and Conservation Programme of Aaranyak.
For several years, Aaranyak has been using hired boats for its surveys.
Wakid said owning a boat was extremely important because understanding the dolphin population change and associated factors over time is very important for long-term conservation of endangered Gangetic dolphin. For this, a permanent survey boat with fixed observation platforms and other survey facilities are required.
The boat would also work as an “education boat”, Wakid said.
“We have been conducting research and conservation work on Brahmaputra dolphin by hiring boats from different agencies, which is expensive, time-consuming and conditional, as boats from Upper Assam do not want to come to lower Assam and vice-versa for security reasons and lack of proper experience,” Wakid said.
The new boat has already made one trip from Guwahati to Sadiya.
The Gangetic river dolphin is primarily an inhabitant of the Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems of India and Bangladesh, with a population of less than 2,000.
The Brahmaputra river system in Assam has been identified as one of the last habitats of the species by scientific communities.
The species, in fact, was declared a national aquatic animal by the Centre in 2009.
“After a couple of years of support-raising efforts and more than one year of hard work, we built Kahua with support from the Darwin Initiative through Zoological Society of London (UK), Rufford Small Grant Foundation (UK) and Mohammed Bin-Zayed Species Conservation Fund (UAE),” Wakid said.
The 75-foot boat is equipped with modern scientific equipment, safety and security arrangements, lodging facilities and experienced crew. It is registered with the inland water transport department.
“We are using Japanese underwater acoustic surveillance technology in the Brahmaputra-Kulsi-Subansiri survey, which will be end in March 12. This technology will confirm the visual sightings,” Wakid said.
“Direct sighting has been useful but we would like to increase the detection as all dolphins cannot be sighted visually. The underwater acoustic device or hydrophone, which measures the clicking sounds emitted by the dolphins, can help in detection,” Wakid said.
Nearly 300 dolphins have been recorded in the Brahmaputra mainstream so far.


Machinery makers move towards northeast india

Machinery Mart attracts biggies

A bird’s eye view of the Machinery Mart in Guwahati. Telegraph picture
Guwahati, March 4: Construction equipment manufacturers are looking to the Northeast to improve their turnover, thanks to the massive flow of funds from the Centre for infrastructure projects.
In such a scenario, it’s no wonder that Telcon (Telco Construction Equipment Company Limited), a leader in construction equipment in India, is looking to increase its market presence in the region.
Telcon branch manager Biswajit Kundu told The Telegraph, “The focus is on the Northeast, where big projects in the infrastructure sector are under way now. We currently have three dealers in the region and one more soon will be entering our network.”
According to Kundu, Telcon, which was selling 20 machines (excavators and others) every month, was expecting higher sales with improvement in the marketing network. “The new plant at Kharagpur will feed the east and Northeast markets," he added.
Telcon is a subsidiary company of Hitachi Construction Machinery Company Ltd and Tata Motors.
Kundu and other officials from major construction equipment companies were participating in the second Machinery Mart organised here by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) from February 24 to 27.
The exhibition showcased heavy earthmoving machines and equipment, including excavators, backhoe, loaders, skidders, crane towers, lighting towers, stone crushers, tippers, compactors, concrete and bitumen mixers and industrial products.
The event witnessed sales worth Rs 25 crore and generated more than 250 business enquiries worth Rs 200 crore. The second edition of the Machinery Mart has witnessed 35 per cent increase in participation, thanks to significant additions from the infrastructure and construction sectors.
The fact that the Centre is making huge investments in the infrastructure sector in the Northeast is attracting companies of this sector to the region.
Among the notable participants of the Mart were Ashok Leyland, Asia Motor Works Ltd, Case New Holland Construction Equipment (India) Pvt Ltd, DOZCO (India) Pvt Ltd, Hyundai Construction Equipment India Pvt Ltd, Hyva (India) Pvt Ltd, JCB India Ltd, Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T Construction & Mining Machinery), Telco Construction Equipment Company Limited (Telcon), Terex Equipment Pvt Ltd and Torsa Machines Limited.
Torsa is a premium crushing and screening equipment brand in India with manufacturing facilities based at Guwahati. The Rs 25-crore turnover company is currently targeting the Bangladesh and Nepal markets, while it transacted business worth Rs 2.2 crore with Bhutan recently. It has successfully executed more than 1,000 projects across the country and is considered a major player in the domestic and international markets.
“We have a mobile crushing plant whose capacity ranges from 20 tonnes to 200 tonnes per hour,” a company official said. He said the stone crusher market was worth Rs 1,200-crore and that there was stiff competition involving many national and international players. Torsa launched its new 80 tonnes per hour combo crushing and screening plant at the exhibition.
Torsha Machines Pvt Ltd vice-president, marketing, Palash Banerjee, said, “We have stabilised in the Northeast are now going pan-Indian which gives us the lead,” and added that the company got repeat customers, which reflected the reliability of its equipment.
L&T, which did a business of Rs 53 crore in the Northeast in 2010-11, is aiming for Rs 70 crore in 2011-12 and Rs 200 crore in the next five years. “We have strong research and development capabilities and have developed Komstrax, which is a satellite monitoring system through which one can monitor the machines from anywhere,” L&T construction equipment business assistant general manager Raj Sovon Chaki said.
An industry official said availability of adequate finance by small buyers to procure heavy machines and skilled manpower to efficiently run the state-of-the-art machines are the key challenges in the growth of the infrastructure sector and therefore, skilled intervention and equipment leasing was the need of the hour.
JCB, which did a business of Rs 300 crore in the last year is targetting a business of Rs 500 crore in the next five years. One of out of every two equipments sold in india is a JCB. Kirloskar Pumps feels that the market for irrigation pumps is huge and is looking to do Rs 35 crore business in next five years.

Home stay in Assam

Home stay for authentic touch

- Live in Assam the way Assamese do
 If you wish to experience Assam up close and personal, complete with the gamosahanging from the bath hook and the aroma of machor tenga wafting from the kitchen, the state tourism has an answer — home stay.
The Assam tourism department is introducing home stay facilities to provide clean and affordable places to foreigners and domestic tourists and an opportunity to live in Assam the way Assamese do.
The Assam Rural Home Stay Tourism Scheme-2012 aims at providing comfortable home-stay facilities with standardised services to the tourists and to supplement available accommodations in the rural tourist destinations.
“People are ready to offer their homes and it is the best mode of tourism in rural areas,” Anurag Singh, managing director Assam Tourism Development Corporation said.
The Assam Tourism Development Corporation Limited is the implementing agency.
The government has identified 16 locations, including Majuli, Pobitora, Kaziranga, Sivasagar and Neemati ghat, where it is looking for 200 units to be offered to tourists.
He said the idea is to provide foreigners an opportunity to stay with Assamese families, experience the local customs and traditions and relish local cuisine.
There are criteria, though, for those wishing to put up their houses as home stays.
The home should be on a land of at least two kathas, and should have at least two rooms with attached toilets.
The internal d├ęcor, furniture and furnishing, curtains will be based on local culture, heritage and themes. The units under this scheme will have a uniform colour scheme so that these are easily identifiable.
The selected homes will be eligible for a one-time financial assistance of Rs 2.5 lakh.
A committee to be constituted by the department of tourism/ATDC Ltd will examine the applications, inspect the premises being offered and in the event of it being found suitable, the authorities will approve/register the home stay unit to be eligible for assistance under the scheme.
The homes would also get exemptions from luxury and sales tax and domestic rates for electricity and water will be charged.
In addition, efforts will be made to organise short-term training in hospitality for those who would opt for such training.
Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme of WWF-India is running 10 home stay units and the response has been good.
“Whoever has visited has been happy and in places like Arunachal Pradesh, home stay tourism is the best tourism,” Pijush Kumar Dutta, senior landscape co-ordinator Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme WWF-India said.