Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Environment related news from Assam in 2007

City’s rich flora & fauna under threat
GUWAHATI, May 11 – The recent capture of a leopard from the Kamakhya hills has highlighted concerns, which extend beyond the fate of a single animal or species. The incident, along with many others in the recent past, indicates the growing threats to wild flora and fauna spread in and around Guwahati. According to conservationists, the leopard is among the most hardy of animals so far its adaptability is concerned. The species does not require extensive habitat or a large prey base. At times they have survived on smaller animals, including dogs and goats. The fact that they are coming inside human settlements prove that even their relatively smaller habitat have shrunk compelling them to emerge out of their natural home. In and around the hills, the habitat of leopards has witnessed the worst degradation in years. Vegetation has been replaced, streams choked, and human settlements have come up in large parts. The hills of Kamakhya, from where the last leopard was captured have endured a similar fate.Forest officials and conservationists agree that the leopard’s plight is only the tip of the iceberg, many other species – especially those, which are less charismatic– have faced the onslaught of habitat destruction. With the rapid removal of greenery from within and outside the city, bird life in the city has decreased in both numbers and variety. From some nesting sites, egrets and storks have almost disappeared. Concrete buildings have replaced some nesting sites, while others have been destroyed by pollution.The greater and the lesser adjutant storks, once sighted in large numbers, have been affected by urban growth to a visible degree. Now three or four colonies remain in parts of the city.Worse is the status of the wild flora in and around Guwahati. “No one is aware of their diversity, no cataloguing was done in a comprehensive way. And now, no one knows which plants and trees have become extinct,” said a Forest Department personnel.In recent times, the Forest Department has executed the Seuj Prakalpa to introduce more greenery in and around the city. However, the programme has its limits, and many of the plants have already perished for want of proper care.

Chinese dam no cause for alarm: India
NEW DELHI, May 10 – India today said there is no cause for “alarm” over China’s plans to construct a dam on the Brahmaputra river in Tibet on which Bangladesh has expressed concern, reports PTI. “We are seized of the matter. There is no situation of alarm,” Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz told reporters when asked about reports that Dhaka had expressed concern over the proposed dam by Beijing. Observing that China wanted to produce 40MW of power from the project, he said both India and China exchange information on hydrology regularly and “I think it is not a situation of alarm”. Reports from Dhaka had quoted environmentalists as saying that China’s plan would lead to a major ecological disaster for Bangladesh within the next few years.Meanwhile, India and China are exploring the framework of a final package settlement covering all sectors of India-China boundary, Rajya Sabha was informed today. In a reply, Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee said this will be followed by “the last stage” which will involve actual delineation and demarcation of the boundary on map and ground by the civil, military and survey officials from the two sides. The first stage involved signing of the “Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question” on April 11, 2005 during the visit of Chinese premier to India, the Minister said.

Climate change affecting plants
GUWAHATI, May 8 – While scientists grapple with complex equations to explain climate change, the layperson could gaze at plants and trees to know the changing weather. Across Assam, some of them are blossoming in times of the year, which for them were not the norm.The ubiquitous Kopou, one of the flowers synonymous with the culture of the State, is in blossom in some parts of the State, even though their flowering usually is most abundant near mid-April.According to HK Bhuyan of Suhagpur, the dandrobium at his place has started to bud in recent days. “In previous years the blossoms came out much earlier,” he said.Some other orchids, which normally flower in high summer, have already started to show off their delicate shades.Not just smaller plants, trees like Palas and Madar also have flowered ahead of time in certain areas of the State. “The Taal tree has produced fruits throughout the year, even though earlier it was seasonal,” said Ranjit Das of Guwahati Nursery, the oldest nursery of the city.He added that this year there has been a rapid growth of insects and some of the plants have not grown well.Narayan Mahanta, the DFO of Guwahati Zoo, viewed the recent phenomenon with caution, and said, “there could be a variety of reasons for early or late flowering, because plants are affected by light and temperature changes.”He believed that the ‘unusual’ propagation of plants could be the subject of an ambitious research project. Ambitious, because it would involve studying a lot of data on temperature, insolation, rainfall and several other factors. Such an exercise could eventually reveal if changing weather is indeed responsible for the early or late flowering of plants and trees.
Nature conservation must for global environment’
SIVASAGAR, June 12 – Addressing a well-attended meeting held on the occasion of World Environment Day on June 5 at Sivasagar Bezbaruah School, organised jointly by the Department of Forests and ‘Doya’, a leading NGO, Amal Sarmah, DFO Sivasagar said that peoples’ awareness to conserve Nature is must for survival of the planet, not merely the human race. “Increase of CO, CO2, Methane and Clorofloro carbon in the atmosphere will destroy the eco-system”, he said while inaugurating the sapling plantation programme in the school campus.Abdul Zelil, Inspector of Schools, Farid Ahmed, SDO (Sadar), Sivasagar, Ranjan Das, DFO (Social Forestry), Dr Utpal Dutta, Prof. Sivasagar College and Amrit Srivastav, Superintendent Engineer, ONGC and AC Sarmah, Superintendent Engineer, ONGC were the notable speakers that addressed the gathering and gave away the prize to the students that took part in the drawing and essay competition held for the purpose.Nabab Tabasum Yasmin, Pallavi Nath and Chandana Mondal won the first, second and third prizes in essay competition in lower section. In the upper section, Ritashree Borgohain won the first, Pinky Sheel second and Kaberi Boro got the third prize.Pabitra Pran Bhattacharya, Headmaster, Kaloogaon Girls’ High School and Prabhat Duwora, principal, Bezbaruah HS School, conducted the prize giving ceremony. Srimanta Borthakur welcomed the guests. National award winner in Documentary section (Jaws of Death) Gautom Saikia was felicitated in the meeting.

Naturenomics can help NE development
GUWAHATI, June 12 – A new economy based on sustainable use of nature could help the North East acquire about Rs 300,000 crore of investment in several areas including agriculture, energy, transport, tourism and infrastructure. Stating this at a press conference held in the city today, Ranjit Barthakur, chairman Globally Managed Services (GMS) revealed the key to such an approach is a concept called naturenomics, which balances ecological priorities with economic activities.Barthakur reasoned that while present models of growth might give immediate results, the strategy would fail to deliver in the long run. Naturenomics, on the other hand, could spur more econmic development while ensuring that the ecology and the environment of the region remained intact for future generations. Under the naturenomics framework GMS has favoured that the North East should move towards a green revolution, a clean revolution and a blue revolution. These would ensure sustainable development in biodiversity assets, clean environment, and water assets respectively. Forcefully arguing against attempts at industrial development in the North East, Barthakur said that industrial policies have failed for more than five decades in the region, and the relevance of an industrial policy simply did not exist.He asserted that the time was just right to move towards naturenomics, in which case the natural resources of the region like water, biodiversity and soil quality, among others could become assets of immense value. Citing organic faming as an example, he mentioned its potential to meet huge demands in the country and abroad. Likewise, pisciculture and floriculture could fuel rapid and sustained economic growth. Because of the very nature of the activities under naturenomics, employment generation would be the other important spin-off. Appealing to the media and the people to appreciate naturenomics, the GMS chairman said, “if we miss the boat, we will miss it all…practice of naturenomics is critical to securitize the land and water and it would result in the formation of nature capital in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, clean energy and tourism.”When asked about the expectations that GMS had from the Assam Government, Barthakur mentioned a positive outlook and faster response especially from bureaucrats. He bemoaned the fact the transfer of senior officials from one department to another, and their long leaves acted as impediments to entrepreneurial efforts. Addressing the media, Dipak Kripalani co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GMS said, “Our objective is to have environmental leadership, to make sure that environment becomes the engine of growth and also all of this leads to social regeneration.”Kripalani emphasized that the internal mandate of GMS was get over Rs 300,000 crore of “eco-investment into the North East to build and sustain nature capital in the next five years or so.In such a situation doubling the GDP and the employment opportunities in the region would not remain a problem. One of the unique aspects about the GMS endeavour would be building bridges between ecology and economy, he added.At present GMS has made successful forays in organic farming, fisheries, horticulture and tourism in the North East. Around 1200 farmers have already forged an alliance with the company to carry out sustainable agriculture. GMS founded by Ranjit Barthakur and Dipak Kripalani in 2002, is co-located in Mumbai and Singapore. It has already helped several corporate majors, including Tata Tea, to adopt new business models, which have been appreciated in different quarters.

Japanese, World Bank teams visit Nagaon South Division forests
HOJAI, Aug 27 – A three-member team led by Masuda Misa, rofessor, Graduate School of Life and Environmental Science, University of Tsukuba, Japan, accompanied by two Master’s degree students Ota Masahiko and Hara Ayumi, visited four joint forest management committees (JFMC) under Nagaon South Forest Division, Hojai, recently. During their visit, they met the villagers of Akashiganga, Nahargaon, Lankajan, Kathaltoli JFMC and highly appreciated the involvement of communities in natural resource management. The team was impressed with people’s nurseries where various saplings were taken care of and plantation done in 300 hectares of forest land belonging to each JMFC.During a brief stopover at the DFO’s office here, Prof Masuda Misa, while talking to this correspondent, said that their visit to this north-eastern State of India was for academic purpose as well as to study the regeneration process undertaken in lost forest cover with people’s participation which is the need of the hour against global warming and environmental degradation and disclosed that the Japan Society for Promotion of Science as well as Japan Ministry of Education provided fund to study forest management in the state of Kerala and Assam.She said that since mid 1990s forest development in Japan received priority with rapid industrialisation and technological change. Prof Misa said that Japanese people were also once dependent on forest for firewood but after 1990’s, this practice has undergone change and people gradually switched over to coal, gas as fuel, so forestwood is no longer used in Japan. She further disclosed that their country is very much conscious on ecological and environmental aspects and has 60 to 70 per cent forest cover compared to population density with 60 per cent private forest (natural forest) while the rest is national forest through plantation.When asked about the government initiative to increase forest cover in Japan, Prof Misa said that through the Japanese government discourages use of forest products and encourages to grow trees for commercial purpose providing subsidy.To a question of meeting domestic demand for timber, she said that cost benefit analysis has shown that domestic timber production is higher than the imported one, so people prefer imported timber and this way it helped conservation in a big way. The environmentalist of Tsukuba University informed that the team has also visited Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, West Kamrup forest and Kaziranga National Park and was delighted to have a glimpse from distance the world famous one-horned rhino. She said that the concept of National Park in Japan is different from that of India. National Parks in Japan are situated on the hinterland of National forest covering areas of private farm land and private forest. While appreciating the concept of JFMC in Assam as step towards green cover, she informed that their country is interested in funding Assam forest department for creation of plantation and infrastructure development in the department as well as fringe forest villages.Prior to the visit of the Japanese team, a delegation of World Bank headed by Prabir Jorduar, Assae Laggasea, specialist, M&E and M Pathi, sr agri expert visited Nahargaon JFMC site under Doboka range forest recently.

China’s bid to divert Brahmaputra
NEW DELHI, Sept 13 – The AGP and BJP have jointly petitioned the Centre calling for its intervention following fresh reports of China’s bid to divert Brahmaputra river. A delegation of the two parties comprising MPs of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh has been meeting Central Ministers seeking clarification. They met Union Water Resources Minister Prof Saifuddin Soz here this afternoon, and submitted a memorandum asking him “to examine the matter in great detail and to take appropriate measure in the interest of our country”. The delegation included Dr Arun Kumar Sarma, Sarbananda Sonowal and Kumar Deepak Das, besides Tapir Gaon and Khiren Rijiju. Earlier this week, they had called on Minister of State for Defence, Palam Raju.The MPs said the Government of India was reported to have conveyed its concern to Beijing in 2006 on Chinese reports that China intended to dam rivers like Yarlung Tsangpo (known as Brahmaputra) and divert it to the arid north-east China. “Although China officially denied such an intention, Indian officials said the reports continued to abound inside China, including a proposed construction timeline beginning 2009,” they said quoting media reports.The dam would involve construction of a hydroelectric project at the Great Bend of Brahmaputra (a sharp U-turn near Indian border) to generate a projected 40,000 MW of electricity and a subsequent diversion of waters northwards, the memorandum said.“This would be disastrous for India and Bangladesh. When Chinese newspaper indicated that China was going ahead with the plan for the feasibility study on hydropower project in the Yarlung Tsangpo river in the Tibet Autonomous Region, India started expressing its concern, they recalled.Later, Sonowal told this newspaper that Prof Soz informed them that a mechanism has been established to resolve disputes over rivers originating from China. Both India and China are going to nominate their members shortly, Sonowal quoted the Minister as having said. “The MoWR further disclosed that a meeting has been scheduled towards the end of this month in Beijing to discuss the whole gamut of issues,” the AGP MP said.“Prof Soz said India is going to convey the concern of the North-eastern States at the meeting,” he said.“The Brahmaputra river is the life line of the North-eastern region and under no circumstances India is going to concede any ground,” Sonowal quoting the Minister said.Sonowal further said that the MoWR is likely to visit Dibrugarh and Majuli soon. “The Minister assured us that he proposed to visit the sites of major breaches for a physical inspection,” Sonowal said.

Guwahati figures among most polluted cities
NEW DELHI, Sept 14 – In what should set the alarm bells ringing, Guwahati has been listed among the 51 most polluted cities of the country, which have failed to meet the prescribed Respirable Particulate Matter (RSPM) levels, specified under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The finding was based on the monitoring of ambient air quality. Guwahati city with RSPM annual average concentration (residential areas) of 112 has been placed at 24 in the list of 51 cities. Gobindgarh and Ludhiana leads the pack.Official sources said according to the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) 2005, the ranking of India is at 101 position, out of 146 countries. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is executing a nation-wide programme of ambient air quality monitoring known as National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP).Sources said measures taken to control pollution included a road map up to 2010 has been laid down by the expert committee on Auto Fuel Policy for controlling vehicular pollution. Measures included introduction of Euro-II and Euro-III compliant fuel for the whole country, introduction of cleaner fuels like Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), improved pollution under control (PUC) certification system.
NGO’s novel bid to help flood victims MIRZA, Sept 30 – Perhaps this has never happened in the country before – free distribution of bullocks and ploughs to poverty stricken farmers by any political party or voluntary organisation. Showing a new way of helping the needy, Dakhin Kamrup Bikash Gosthi (DKBG) on Sunday distributed a pair of bullocks and a plough each to several farmers affected by the devastating floods this year and who had been depending on their better-placed counterparts for tilling the land. DKBG, a forum of the citizens, has decided to provide a pair of bullocks and a plough each to 100 needy farmers from this year. The initiative seen as a pragmatic approach to change the living standard of the grassroots, will stretch over a period of five years, thus covering 500 farmers under the distribution scheme.The smiles of the beneficiaries like Pranab Biswas, Haren Mali, Kamala Kanta Bodo, Abani Das and others could not have gone any bigger. Putting a gentle hand on his bullocks, Pranab recalled how his days had turned into long nightmarish experiences after the ravaging floods destroyed his Sali crop. “I am a small farmer and survive on my Bodo and Sali crop. But the flood not only destroyed my crop, it also destroyed my dream of giving my aged mother some more comfort,” said Pranab.Till this day, Pranab had sometimes borrowed a pair of bullocks to plough his fields or had managed a tractor. As Pranab started pushing his bullocks homeward, he whispered his plans to devote full time to cultivation. A graduate, he has been working as a teacher in a venture school and also toiling on his land in his spare time. “Now that I have my own bullocks, I will go for multiple cropping,” he said.The joy in his heart showed in his voice and eyes. The dust blown up by the hoofs of the bullocks was smearing his happy face.“The need of the hour is initiatives that would really change the agricultural scenario and help the poor,” said a functionary of DKBG, disclosing that the forum would bear the tax of all the farmers and that the list of farmers was being prepared. “We are bent on ushering in a new agricultural revolution in our area,” said the functionary. The farmers apart who benefited on this day, it was a day for the girl students and women to cheer. Around 47 women, SHGs and women organisations got muga and eri reeling machine and poultry and eight girl students and women from economically weaker background got bicycles to make their lives better.At a function held at the premises of central swahidbedi and presided over by Pranab Kalita, MLA, Palashbari, the bullocks and other aids were distributed. The function was also attended by many government officials including RC Jain, DC, Kamrup, H Bora, district project director, DRDA and B Bhuyan, CEO, Kamrup Zila Parishad.
Draft water policy termed anti-people
GUWAHATI, Sept 29 — Majority of the participants of a consultation on the draft State Water Policy here today rejected the draft outright as an anti-people attempt at robbing the communities of their traditional right over water resources. The contention of these participants was that the clause 8.1 of the draft had proposed water meters for all the consumers treating all the water users as consumers and thus commodifying the item, which had been traditionally used by the people of the State and the region as a community resource.The draft has also provided for tariff at a growing manner on the quantity of water used by the people. A similar provision in Kokabamba city of Latin American Bolivia resulted in a rebellion in the year 2000 as the American company engaged in supplying water started raising the tariff exorbitantly, said these participants.The draft also advocated privatisation of water resources through its provisions in clauses 9.8 (7), 9.8 (3) and 9.8 (2), which have proposed engagement of the private sector players in the management of water resources.Moreover, the draft also speaks of involvement of the private sector in building mega dams for hydel power generation. The suggestion of the draft that there should be a change in the mindset of the people towards water resources is fraught with a conspiracy to impress upon the people that there is no harm in handing over this natural resource to the private sector, opined these participants.The draft has failed to mention any step for preservation of the State’s biodiversity and diverse cultures. Except mentioning biodiversity superficially, it has nothing on biodiversity. It has also failed to uphold the traditional role of women vis-à-vis water.The hurried manner in which the policy is sought to be adopted also gives rise to the doubt that the entire exercise in undertaken under the pressure of some multinational companies, said these participants.The consultation was organised by the Jal Biradari-Water Fellowhip, NE Indian Chapter. The Jal Biradari Chapter has also held similar consultations at Naharkatia (Sept 9), Jorhat (Sept 22), Bongaigaon (Sept 23), Tezpur (Sept 25) and at Baksa. It will also organise a similar session at Silchar on October 4 next, said the organisers.Addressing a press conference on the behalf of the organisers Amrit Kumar Goldsmith, Abinash Lahkar, Bandita Acharyya and Mrinal Gohain said that representatives of about 30 grass-root organisers attended the consultation today. Besides, some individuals like former IAS Bhaskar Baruah and Natwar Thakkar of the Nagaland Gandhi Ashram also attended the session. Dilip Sarma, Chandan Mahanta and Madhuri Barman chaired the morning session.The Jal Biradari was asked by the State Government to complete the entire process of consultation within 45 days since August 21 last. The reports on the consultation will be submitted to the Government by mid-October and the Jal Biradari expects that the 26-member Task Force constituted by the Government will incorporate the opinions of the participants of the consultations in the policy.But the organisers said that they were not hopeful that the Government would abide by the opinions expressed by the participants of the consultations, as, there are only two representatives of the civil society organisations in the Task Force, the rest of its members are Government officers or former bureaucrats.Interestingly, former bureaucrat Bhaskar Baruah who is also a member of the Task Force is not aware of his inclusion in the Task Force as yet. “But if the Government fails to honour the opinions of the civil society groups, we should go for a mass movement on the issue,” said the organisers.

Solution to flash floods by ’11: Govt
GUWAHATI, Oct 8 – The residents of Guwahati might be waiting eagerly for some sort of magic from the State Government to bail them out of the recurring problem of artificial flood by virtue of some of the most talked about schemes including the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM), but as far as Guwahati Development Department Minster Himanta Biswa Sarmah is concerned, the answer to the menace is still to be found. “There is no short-term solution to it and people will have to be patient till something is worked out,” the GDD minister said.Talking to The Assam Tribune, Sarmah said that the problem of artificial flood is not new and even though a team of consultants have been appointed to unearth some sort of formula, nothing concrete has come out till date.“We are equally concerned about the problem but the residents of Guwahati will have to give us some time before we can initiate efforts in this regard,” he said.Citing instances of the metropolitan cities, the minister said, “ It is not just the problem of the residents of Guwahati but even the metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Kolkota are at the receiving end of this menace.” “Several crores of rupees have been spent by the respective State Governments in cities like Mumbai but the problem is still there. The formula is yet to be cracked by the experts. Our priority should now be to reduce the intensity of the sufferings as at this point time there is no permanent solution to it,” Sarmah pointed out. “We are expecting a permanent solution by 2011 under the JNURM but before that a lot of things would be done to minimise the sufferings of the people,” Sarmah asserted.The minister is leaving for New Delhi today to attend a conference where the progress of as many as 52 States under JNURM would be discussed. The Prime Minster Dr Manmohan Singh will also attend the conference.“ A host of issues including the implementation of JNURM in all the 52 States would be discussed during the conference and a presentation would also be made from our side which definitely will include the problem of artificial flood in the city,” Sarmah added.

National seminar on biodiversity of North East in city
GUWAHATI, Oct 11 – The North East Biotechnological Consortium (NEBC), a research and development unit of Guwahati-based Education Research and Development Foundation, is organising a national seminar on ‘Biodiversity – Exploration, Conservation, and Utilization of Plant Resource’ with specific reference to North East, on December 18 and 19 in the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship.Professor Dr MH Hazarika, chairman of the organising committee, stated that the two-day seminar is designed with a view to provide a platform to speakers from varied fields of Applied Life Science, indigenous technical knowledge bases, application of remote sensing and entrepreneurship development. Open for academicians, students and professionals, the areas to be covered by this seminar are exploration and conservation of the rich biodiversity of the North East, intellectual property rights related-news relevant to topic, utilisation of the diverse bio-resources of the region.

Govt double standard on sattra land encroachment
GUWAHATI, Oct 19 – Any leniency on the part of the administration towards the encroachers of sattra land belonging to other religions is tantamount to contempt of court, knowledgeable circles here claim. It needs mention here that an allegation is there that immigrant Muslims have been encroaching upon a sizeable portion of sattra land in the State. Knowledgeable circles here refer to an order issued by the Assam Board of Revenue in a case (No 22RA-B/2004) in July 2005 in this connection. The appeal with the Revenue Board was made by Dwipendra Nath Goswami challenging an order issued by SDO (Sadar), Barpeta in TR Case No 80/2003-04 on January 9, 2004.The Revenue Board in its order dated July 18, 2005, observed interalia, that the proviso to Section 15 A of the Assam State Acquisition of Lands belonging to Religious or Charitable Institutions of Public Nature Act, 1959, as amended, had stated that ‘the right of transfer of land belonging to the above mentioned institutions for a ryot shall extend only to a person belonging to same religion in which the ownership of land was vested.’It further maintained that in the case (No 22 RA-B/2004). “… it is seen that the so-called tenant who are given ownership right by the SDO (Sadar), Barpeta belong to another religion. Therefore granting of ownership right of sattra land to a person belonging to a religion other than that of the person to whom the sattra belongs, is not permissible.’The order issued by the SDO (Sadar), Barpeta approving settlement right to some immigrant people was hence set aside by the Revenue Board through the July 18, 2005 order.The order is applicable for the sattra land spread all over the State, said the knowledgeable circles here.It needs mention here that the Asom Sattra Mahasabha and the NE unit of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) recently alleged that about 41,000 hectares of land belonging to different sattras were encroached upon by the ‘land hungry Bangladeshi infiltrators.’The State Government is not taking any interest in this serious matter due to its vote bank politics, alleged the Mahasabha and the VHP office bearers in their memorandum to the Governor on August 25 last. They also pleaded for deployment of adequate number of security personnel equipped with sophisticated gadgets for ensuring safety of the sattra institutions, the cultural heritage of the State.

South American experiment may help India
GUWAHATI, Oct 19 – An American history and culture teacher could solve the water-related woes of the people living between Peruvian Trujillo and Chilean Arica in the South American coastal deserts by consistently studying the various geometric shapes and the geological and hydrological data he gathered. The predecessors of the indigenous people of Peru and Chile drew these geometric shapes thousands of years back. The findings of this teacher’s project – South America’s Coastal Geoglyphs and their correlation to ground water – have proved many researchers wrong as far as availability of ground water in the South American coastal deserts is concerned. It is to be noted that the geoglyphs here stand for the diagrams indicating the water-containing faults in the rock structures.Though his venture is seemingly connected with archaeology, the research done by this teacher – David Johnson, is connected with geology and hydrology too. However, this teacher does not have a formal degree in any of these three subjects. He is a self-taught man.Talking to this Correspondent during his visit to the city recently, Johnson observed that since Indians too have an ancient civilization, like the Peruvian and Chilean people, they too might have a traditional system indicating such water sources. The theory that proved right in Peru and Chile can be applied all over the Himalayan foothill areas of India. Large water sources should be flowing beneath the surface, particularly in North Western part of India, he said.It is pertinent to mention here that applying remote sensing technology, the subterranean existence of the historic Saraswati River was discovered recently in the western part of India. The Saraswati was missing for centuries. Johnson, who also used the remote sensing technology to cross verify his assertions, started his investigation in the Rio de Nasca Drainage located near Nasca, Peru, in 1996. Today, his efforts cover an area between the Pacific coast from Trujillo, northern Peru, to Arica, northern Chile, a distance of 1,750 km or 1,087 miles. It took him three years to decode the ancient hydrographic language written in the form of enchanting geometric diagrams, which use to attract a huge number of tourists to these areas for visiting these ‘archaeological marvels’. During his search for the solution to the problem, Johnson found the, Puquios (the ancient infiltration galleries), also known as aqueducts.He found that while the trapezoids of the ‘diagrams’ were oriented in line with and directly above concentrated veins of groundwater, the bases of such patterns were equal to the respective width of those veins.The triangles of the diagrams point towards faults in the hills, while the spirals are located where veins of groundwater change direction. The beak of the humming birds drawn on the surface reached out and touched geoglyphs mapping a groundwater vein. Line centres were drawn where several geoglyphs intersected.Studying the geoglyphs, Johnson formulated the hypothesis – a correlation exists between geology, hydrology, archaeology and geoglyphs. Meanwhile, in 1997, Johnson had requested the scientists of the University of Massachusetts to assist him in either proving or disproving his maturing theory. They examined the geology and hydrology from 1997 to 2003. And after examining the samples of groundwater and river waters, the scientists found that both the waters reacted to rock in a similar manner. But the samples differed in evaporation fractions. Though the river waters showed slightly different chemistry due to evaporation than groundwaters, yet they undergo similar reactions with the surrounding geology. Johnson and Massachusetts scientists found that precipitation on the Andes Altiplano was the predominant source of water. Physical evidence for occasional precipitation events in the lower elevation watersheds was there. They concluded that river waters were similar to ground waters with the exception of evaporation rates. “By using the evaporation rates we can distinguish between the two sources of water,” said Johnson. Coming to the geoglyphs again, he said that the lineaments of the geoglyphs are naturally occurring linear features visible on remotely sensed imagery, and result from alignments of topography, vegetation, soil patterns and structural features in bedrock. The triangles of these diagrams point to the locations of the faults in the hills. These faults can conduct shallow or deep groundwater veins. Several wells have been excavated in Peru and Chile based on Johnson’s theory.In each case the wells produced a year round source of water in places other researchers predicted to be dry.
A rendezvous with nature
NORTH LAKHIMPUR, Oct 28 – Conservationist group, Green Heritage conducted a nature study camp recently to mark the 53rd Wildlife Week in North Lakhimpur.The daylong camp was organised in Deergha-Naharbarie area under the Kakoi Reserve Forest of Lakhimpur district in association with the Somdiri Eco-Club of the North Lakhimpur Government HS School to create awareness among students about the bio-diversity of the Kakoi-Deergha area and need for its conservation.Kakoi Reserved Forest, one of the five reserved forests of Lakhimpur district, is unique for its rich bio-diversity. Located in an area spread over 4415.12– hectares of land, Kakoi Reserved Forest has endangered chiya nahar trees and climbing or creeper bamboos. It is also the hunting ground of wild elephants, wild dogs, hedgehogs, monkeys and many birds and butterflies. Inaugurating the camp, honorary wildlife warden of North Lakhimpur, Bikul Goswami said Kakoi-Deergha forest area is one of the older wildlife areas of Asia. He also spoke about the elephant corridor and man-elephant confrontation. Beat officer of Kakoi Reserved Forest, Bombeswar Gogoi led a trekking expedition of students of the camp inside the forest. The camp was attended by 50 students from Lakhimpur Girls College and Somdiri Eco-Club and conducted by Himanshu Jyoti Saikia, life member of Green Heritage and lecturer, Lakhimpur Girls College, including Dr Prabal Saikia, secretary general, Green Heritage. Pradeep Gogoi, in-charge of Somdiri Eco-Club and Khanindra Kumar Bora, NCC teacher, aided the nature camp.Idd celebrations : Idd-ul-Fitre, the festival celebrated at the culmination of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, was celebrated with traditional pomp and gaiety in North Lakhimpur.People of the Islamic faith had prepared for this occasion after observing the month-long fasting from dawn-to-dusk during Ramadan with preparation of various delicacies and cuisines to treat the guests.On the eve of the Idd-ul-Fitre, processions were taken out on the streets of the North Lakhimpur town to greet the public soon after the celebration of the festival was confirmed by statement of Hilal Committee regarding sighting of the moon.Domes and minarets of various mosques were decorated with colourful lights and the town wore a festive look with people crowding markets, as the season of festivities had already got under way.The main prayer of the Idd-ul-Fitre was held in North Lakhimpur Town Eidgah Maidan where thousands of people converged. Maulvi Bashiruddin Barbhuyan, Imam of Kamala Baries Road Jame Masjid, led the prayer.Prayers for peace and harmony in the State, country and for the entire humanity were said on that occasion. Earlier, Idd greetings were sent to the Eidgah by local MLA, Ghana Borgohain, ex-MLA, Utpal Dutta and Sula Borah, district unit of AGP, AGP-P, Congress and Satradhikar of Sri Sri Maahanra Satra to Muslim people of North Lakhimpur.

NE flowers to hit Japan markets
GUWAHATI, Oct 28 – After making a strong presence in the Dubai flower market, rose, anthurium, and dendrobium orchid cultivated in the region are all set to hit the Japan market soon. Two Japanese companies–Classic Japan and Otani have come forward to buy flowers from the North East. Inspired by the quality of rose and anthurium, these companies have signed a deal with the Zopar Exports to import products from the region.Flowers cultivated in five States — Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland — have been making strong presence in the Dubai market. Particularly, Anthurium which is only available in the Northeast, has been able to attract a good number of customers in Dubai.Buoyed by the response from the foreign market, floriculture has been picking up in the region. According to available statistics, about 500 farmers are now closely associated with the floriculture with active support from the Centre.“Our rose and anthurium have good demand in the international market. We have already sent several consignments to Dubai,” Rajesh Prasad of Zopar Exports told this Correspondent today. The firm has been motivating the farmers towards floriculture in the region. In this context, he said that flower market across the globe has been expanding at a good pace and therefore this region can play a major role. “Despite vast potential, floriculture in the Northeast is still low considering the volume of international market. We must motivate more farmers,” Prasad observed. Dubai is said to be one of the major flower markets in the world for which several Indian companies are now exploring the market by their variety of products. But, anthurium in the region has a special demand. During Valentines Day, prices of anthurium generally go up.Providing more details in this regard, Prasad said that the demand for anthurium has been increasing across the globe and therefore more production is required. “This region can earn revenue by way of encouraging the farmers,” Prasad added. Zopar Exports produces daily 4000 anthurium and 5,000 to 10,000 roses in different parts in the North East.

State elephant expert roped in by AP Govt
GUWAHATI, Oct 27 – State’s elephant expert Bijoyananda Chowdhury has been engaged by the Andhra Pradesh Government in chasing back a marauding herd of nine female elephants which has been attacking people and destroying property in the South Indian State, to its Orissa habitat. The herd, which has entered Andhra Pradesh from the Lakhari Wildlife Sanctuary of Orissa, has already killed seven persons in Orissa and ten in Andhra Pradesh. At present, it is taking shelter at Parbatipuram in Vijaynagaram district of the South Indian state.Chowdhury arrived at Parbatipuram on October 24 and captured two of the elephants including the matriarch– the main leader of the herd – on October 25. On October 26, he captured another member of the herd. The captured elephants are being transported to the Lakhari sanctuary, which is about 120 km away from Parbatipuram. The rest of the herd are seemed to be of tender age and they are under close observation, said Chowdhury while talking to The Assam Tribune from Parbatipuram.Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Andhra Pradesh, SK Das, who hails from Kokrajhar in the State, is leading the operation at Parbatipuram and it is named – Operation Gaja, Chowdhury said. The herd initially had eleven members. The member strength of the herd came down to nine when one of its members returned to Orissa and another of its members died. Those killed by the herd in Andhra Pradesh included one local journalist. Taking shelter at Parbatipuram, the herd has been creating havoc in several areas of Vijaynagaram and Srikakulam districts of Andhra Pradesh, Chowdhury said.Chowdhury earlier trained some captured elephants in Orissa and the Orissa Government has now advised the Andhra Pradesh Government that for the purpose of chasing the Lakhari elephants back to their habitat, it should engage Chowdhury.

CIDC to set up retrofitting clinics in NE
GUWAHATI, Oct 26 – In view of the high vulnerability of the north-eastern States including Assam to natural disasters like earthquakes, landslides and floods, the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi) today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) for establishing a chain of retrofitting clinics in the region.The conceptualisation and implementation of the retrofitting clinics to reduce the vulnerability of buildings and other structures like bridges, flyovers, roads, etc., to avoid loss of life and property have been seen as one major step towards disaster management. Established by CIDC, these clinics provide the necessary technical expertise to assess the health of a building and other structures and services in regard to repairing and retrofitting to improve the safety levels.With construction activities going on at a fast pace in the region, NEDFi has felt it necessary to join hands with CIDC to promote retrofitting clinics that will not only reduce vulnerability but will also give a chance to local professionals to get trained in the latest mechanisms against natural hazards.CMD of NEDFi Kashi Nath Hazarika and DG of CIDC PR Swarup expressed the hope that these clinics would boost the disaster preparedness of the communities. “The major disasters of the recent past have established the fact that the high losses of life and property were primarily due to collapse of buildings and other lifeline structures,” said Hazarika. On the other hand, Swarup stressed the need for creating awareness on the high vulnerability of the region.As per studies, the seven States in the region including Assam lie in the seismic zone V and Sikkim in zone IV. In Assam, 23 districts fall under the seismic zone.At a function held in the capital city, NEDFi and CIDC signed several other MoUs also for establishment of North East Equipment Bank, for training, testing and certification programmes, for construction cost indices to enhance the growth and uplift of construction industry in particular and socio-economic well-being in general.“The quantum of construction to be undertaken across the North East in the next few years is going to increase tremendously and deployment of equipment and machinery, which is a bottleneck presently, will become more acute,” said Hazarika, asserting that the equipment bank will circumvent the problem and streamline the growth and development of the construction industry in the region.The function was attended by many dignitaries including Dr Bhumidhar Barman, minister for revenue, relief and rehabilitation, KM Singh, member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), PP Shrivastav, member, NEC and others.

Major Central initiative to tackle floods
NEW DELHI, Nov 2 – In a major initiative, the Centre has cleared Rs 8,000 crore, central assistance package for flood management and anti-erosion measures for Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys besides other flood affected States. Declaring it as a major initiative taken to redeem the pledge made by the UPA Government, Information and Broadcasting Minister, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi said the package would be utilised for implementation of pending flood control, anti-erosion, repair and restoration of bunds and embankments.“There would be an allocation of Rs 3,600 crore for the States outside the basins of Brahmaputra and Ganga,” he added.The package biggest yet is envisaged to take care of the State flood management schemes. Funds under the schemes would be disbursed on the 90:10 patterns for Special Category States and 75:25 for others, he added.The Minister said allocation of funds would depend on submission of Detailed Project Reports by the States. “The States have to now quickly prepare DPRs,” he added. Dasmunshi said immediately after assuming power, the Prime Minister has set up a Task Force to recommend measures to deal with the problems of recurring floods. The Task Force did study the matter and prepared a set of recommendations. Meanwhile, among its recommendations, the Task Force had proposed additional Central assistance to the States for remaining works ear-marked in the XI Plan period (2007-12). The Project ‘Flood Management Programme (FMP)’ was estimated to cost Rs. 8,000 crore.The Task Force submitted its report on December 31, 2004 to the Central Government. Based on its recommendations, the Centre had earlier, chalked out a number of flood management schemes for flood affected states amounting to Rs 4,982.10 crore. The works were to be implemented by the concerned States during X and XI Plan period. The State Governments were asked to prepare detailed project reports of the proposed works and process them for approval as per the guidelines of the Planning Commission. The Task Force had also recommended expanding the role of Central Government in flood management, restructuring of Brahmaputra Board, strengthening of flood management organisation of Central Water Commission, Disaster Management system. Government in its Action Taken Report had called for providing additional funds for immediate and Short Term-I and critical flood control and anti-erosion schemes in Brahmaputra and Barak Valley. Cost were upwardly revised for Rs.305.03 crore and Rs.225 crore, respectively. Earlier, in December 2004, Government of India had cleared a scheme for taking up of critical flood control and anti erosion measures in Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys, besides Sikkim and North Bengal at an estimated cost of Rs.150.00 crore. Subsequently, the cost of the scheme was enhanced to Rs.225 crore last September, out of which Rs.20 crore for was ear-marked for Brahmaputra Board. Centre later released Rs. 146.20 crore to the various State Governments in the North Eastern Region including Sikkim and North Bengal. That apart the Government of India has also agreed to finance the execution of some anti-erosion projects in the North Eastern Region through Brahmaputra Board with 100 per cent central funding. They include protection of Majuli Island. This week, Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi had called on the Prime Minister to present an estimate of Rs 800 crore for repair of flood damages, besides relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected people in the State. The package would come as major boost to Assam Government’s plan to repair all the breaches in the embankments of the major rivers and its tributaries by February next year. At least 146 embankments were reported to have suffered breaches including five in the Brahmaputra and 76 in the embankments of its tributaries, 22 in the Barak and 43 in the dykes of the tributaries. The State Government had sought Rs 100 crore for plugging the breaches.Assam has some of the oldest embankment network in the country, dating back to the 60s and 70s. During 1998 floods, the embankments suffered 141 breaches while 2004 was the worst year with network suffering as many as 354 breaches.

State’s first bio-mass power plant at Morigaon
MORIGAON, Nov 21 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today laid the foundation stone of the first bio mass power plant, to be set up by the Amrit group of West Bengal near Jagiroad. Addressing a public rally on the occasion, the Chief Minister said that the people of the area would be benefited immensely from the project, which is likely to be completed within 20 months. He said that the Government has taken a series of steps for the overall improvement of the power sector and assured that the Government would encourage private sector investment in power sector.Speaking on the occasion, Power minister Pradyut Bordoloi said that the power requirement of Assam by the year 2015 would go up to 2500 MW. He said that all the villages would be electrified by the year 2009 under the Rajiv Gandhi rural electrification scheme.

People urged to remain alert to earthquake possibility
TIHU, Dec 6 – The Environmental Research and Evaluation Centre (EREC), a wing of MPG Consultancy (P) Ltd, Guwahati, organised a workshop in collaboration with Tihu College Women’s Forum at the college auditorium hall on ‘Hazard-free environment and rural industrialisation’ recently with a day-long programme.Initiated by a tree-plantation drive, the workshop was chaired by Girindra Nath Sharma, principal i/c of Tihu College. Prof Jeuti Talukdar, secretary of the women’s forum welcomed the participants attending from different educational institutions of the greater Tihu area including teachers of high schools, students and lecturers from Tihu College. Highlighting the aims and objectives of the forum, Talukdar expressed her pleasure in organising such a programme at Tihu College.Dr Dinesh Kakati, a senior lecturer of Guwahati College explained the aims and objectives of the workshop.Dr MM Saikia, a noted environmentalist and seismologist participating in the deliberation on environmental hazards like earthquake, tsunami etc. urged people to remain alert of possible occurrence of earthquake in the north-east region which falls in the vulnerable seismic zone covering the entire northern India. Another resource person, Dr Phani Deka, ex-director of NISIET and adviser of EREC spoke about psychological insight into the knowledge of environment. Dr Deka emphasised on looking into all aspects while facing environmental hazards. He deplored that Assam is still lagging much behind in respect of rural industrialization which is the need of the hour.Noted agricultural scientist Dr RK Thakuria stressed the need of growth rate of agricultural products with special reference to Nalbari district. Participating in the deliberation, JN Deka, director of MPG consultancy spoke on the scope of agriculture and rural industrialisation. Dr Dipesh Bhagawati, lecturer of Education, Tihu College dwelt in details on educational environment and termed education as a four-wheeler having four wheels– school, family– society and state.Earlier, Mahidhar Pathak, co-ordinator of EREC explained in details the aims and functions of the organisation. Encouraging the student community, the declared MPG (Meritorious and perfect genius) award to the winners of and quiz, two debate, three personal interview competitions annually to be organised at different institutions by a selected body.Prof Manjula Deka offered vote of thanks at the end of the meeting.

Lack of amenities a proof of city’s lopsided devp
GUWAHATI, Dec 6 – Though the policy makers have been endlessly trying to project the city as a happening one, its residents however have been at the receiving end deprived of even the basic amenities despite religiously paying their taxes.Problems like scarcity of potable water, water logging, piling garbage, lack of adequate street lights etc have become an integral part of life for the city dwellers, but at Rajgarh bylane no 7, all the problems have manifested in double the proportion adding to the woes of the residents.The taxpayers of this particular bylane keep thanking their good luck if they could avoid a mishap for a week. For not a day passes here with some one hitting against a jutting portion of the dilapidated road or stepping on the slush of so called drains that are just a semblance.The bylane road, which connects the important Pub Sarania road, is in such dilapidated state that the residents have been having a harrowing time negotiating with the protruding broken parts of the road. “Lack of drinking water has been giving us a hard time and now it is the road that has become a nightmare for us,” said Leena Borah, a resident.The condition of the road is evidence of the indifferent attitude of the authorities concerned to the taxpayers, said Leena showing the bandaged part of her leg. Minor accidents have become the order of the day in this area though sometimes accidents turn into major crisis, as was the case with Leena’s mother-in-law who remained bedridden for three months after stepping and slipping on a broken portion of the road.The situation turns worse at night as greater part of the bylane remains unilluminated. As there is no proper drainage system in the bylane, puddles of water are always seen dotting the road. The condition of the road and the sufferings of the residents when there is a smart shower is best left to the imagination. Another resident, Raju Saikia venting his ire against the authorities said that the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) has been indifferent to the woes of the Rajgarh bylane no 7 residents. “The road is in bad shape, there is no proper drain and no drinking water,” said Raju.

Spurt in rhino poaching at KNP
JORHAT, Dec 5 – It is now more than obvious that Kaziranga National Park authorities have not been able to check the recent spurt of poaching within and outside the park premises. As many as 14 rhinos have already been hunted down under the different ranges of the centenary park so far this year. In the latest case of poaching on November 27, a female rhino was slain and its horn taken away in Burapahar range of the park. This is for the first time in a decade that the number of poached rhinos had reached double figures. In 1997, 12 rhinos were slain by poachers. Informed sources said that the fear of poaching always lurks in KNP as a well-organized circuit of poachers is active in the area, ready to strike if there is the slightest leniency in patrolling. Nagaland’s commercial hub, Dimapur, and Siliguri (West Bengal) have emerged as black markets for the prized rhino horn which is believed to have aphrodisiac properties, the sources pointed out. The horns are smuggled to China and the Middle-East through middlemen operating in the country. The Burapahar range, Ghurakati, has borne the maximum brunt of poaching this year. Poachers have killed six rhinos there so far. The eastern range (Agaratoli) has accounted for four rhino deaths. The two other ranges – Kaziranga (Kohora) and Bagori (western range) – have witnessed two rhino deaths each during the span of this year.The sources attributed the increase in the poaching cases to the devastating waves of floods in KNP this year on the one hand and the rising demand for the horn in the international market on the other. They pointed out that the poachers swoop on the park from the southern part hemmed by the Karbi Hills.The sources maintained that the lack of adequate personnel has been crippling the anti-poaching system at KNP. Only 500 officers, employees and guards are at present available to guard the park. The sources revealed that top Forest Department officials are pushing for separate Intelligence units to outdo the poachers in the park. Though there have been some reinforcements in recent times, these are still not sufficient to guard the 430 square-kilometre national park, designated a World Heritage Site in 1985. Also, six new additions, measuring almost the same area (430 square kilometres), have doubled the jurisdiction of the park. The fact that the manpower strength has not been augmented correspondingly has added to the difficulties, the sources pointed out. KNP guards killed three poachers and arrested 14 others during the course of the year.

Subansiri’s natural flow in danger as work on dam begins
NORTH LAKHIMPUR, Dec 5 – By ignoring the draft reports of the experts’ committee and dishonouring the moratorium of conducting any construction work on the Subansiri Hydro-Electric Power Project till the submission of the expert’s report, National Hydro-Electrical Power Corporation started works on the main Gerukamukh dam over the Subansiri river which may end the natural flow of its course on the plains downstream.The 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectrical Power Project has been threatening environment and ecological diversity of the entire Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border areas covering both the districts of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji and the famous river island of Majuli since its inception and therefore been opposed by many parties.Many agitation programmes were launched by the AASU of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts along with conservation organisations and social forums like Subansiri-Brahmaputra Valley Sangam Samiti and ethics against the setting up of the dam which would cause devastating ecological effects in the downstream areas.After intense campaign by those organisations, the state government set up an experts’ committee comprising experts and scientists from Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and IIT-Guwahati on December 8, 2007. The committee was formed after consultation by the state government led by Power Minister with the AASU and NHPC. It was agreed that no work on the dam would commerce till the expert committee submits its report on the environmental impact of the power plant.But by violating that agreement, NPHC started the construction of the 216-wet-high coffer dam over the Subansiri at Gerkamukh from November 27. Construction of this dam will mean the complete blockade of the river water of Subansiri from its natural course through a diversion tunnel to a natural reservoir called Deonala inside Arunachal Pradesh. This will have a huge environmental impact in downstream areas of the river in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji district where tens of thousands of people will suffer.Reports of these developments in Gerukamukh have already created public concerns in North Lakhimpur. Everybody here has demanded an immediate halt to construction work there in order to save this region from an environmental disaster.Youth dies in mishap: The death of two young men from North Lakhimpur cast a spell of gloom all over the town after a fatal car accident in nearby Arunachal Pradesh recently.The two young men Raju Pal (32), son of late Panchanan Pal of Milan Nagar and Chandan Chakravarty (33) of Gopinagar Colony of North Lakhimpur town died on the spot when the Fiat Siena in which they were travelling fell more than two hundred feet from a hilly road in place called 23 Kilo in Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh on the Kimin-Ziro road, some 50 kms from here.The duo were returning from a business seminar of the Golden Trust Finance Ltd at Yazali in Arunachal Pradesh on the night of November 25 when the tragic incident occurred. Both were branch coordinators of the finance company called Golden Trust. The accident also took the life of the driver, one Arunachali youth from Kimin whose name has not been confirmed. Villagers of 23 Kilo told reporters next day of the mishap that they had heard a loud thudding noise around 10 O’clock in the night and in the morning noticed tyre marks of a vehicle and nearby bushes and shrubs being smashed by something heavy. After initial search the wreckage of the car was found on the rocky Ranganadi river where bodies of the victims were also found hanging out from the car.An emotional scene occurred when the bodies of Raju Pal and Chandan Chakravarty were brought to North Lakhimpur. There bodies were cremated at North Lakhimpur crematorium after conducting post-mortem.

Anti-erosion projects at four reaches of Brahmaputra mooted
GUWAHATI, Dec 4 – The draft pre-feasibility report of the Phase-I Project Preparation Technical Assistance (PPTA) for the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-assisted North-Eastern Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Management Project (NEIFREM), Assam, has been submitted to the governments of Assam and India.It has suggested anti-riverbank erosion projects at four reaches of the Brahmaputra, namely–Dibrugarh (25 km approx), Matmara (10 km approx), Bankowal (upstream of the Kaziranga National Park; 30 kms approx) and Palashbari-Jorshimolu (40 kms approx) with an estimated investment of US $ 150 million being extended by the ADB as loan assistance based on the feasibility study. The Central government will treat ninety per cent of this loan as grant, while the rest ten per cent will be treated as a loan to be repaid by the State.It needs mention here that the PPTA team’s projected loss of property during the next 30 years, if anti-erosion measures on these reaches are not taken up on priority basis, is staggering. According to the projected estimate, Dibrugarh will lose property worth Rs 85 crore, while Palashbari will lose around Rs 676 crore. The loss to property in Bankowal-Kaziranga area will be around Rs 118 crore and the same in Matmara area is projected to be around Rs 39 crore during the period.After the techno-economic clearance from the Central government and the acceptance by the ADB, the implementation of the projects will start. However, prior to the finalisation of the projects, the PPTA team engaged by the ADB will prepare the feasibility report for the phase-II of the projects and it is expected to be complete latest by May next. Following this, the State Water Resources Department will prepare the Detailed Project Report (DPR) by October 2008.Addressing a press conference here on Monday, principal water resources specialist of the ADB, Kenichi Yokoyama told newsmen that funds from the ADB would start coming by October/November next year and the project implementation was expected to start between 2008-09. The projects will require seven to eight years for completion, he said.Addressing newsmen, Knut Oberhagemann, a river and flood management specialist and the leader of the PPTA team said that the Brahmaputra had been widening and according to a survey conducted in 2006 by the North East Space Application Centre of the ISRO, the river had eroded away 6,080 sq km area. According to an analysis done by Prof Jogen Sarma of the Department of Applied Geology, Dibrugarh University, the river had eroded an area of 3,870 sq km between 1912 and 1918. And, in a survey he conducted later on, Prof Sarma found that the river had eroded 4,850 sq km between 1963 and 1975.Moreover, the phenomenon of widening of the river has also led to destruction of flood- protection measures in various places. Due to negligence shown to anti-erosion measures, along the bank line of the river in Palashbari area, the entire town of Palashbari has now been eliminated, said the ADB team leader.This is why, the PPTA team has laid stress on anti-erosion projects on a priority basis, he said, adding, the project would have a participatory approach.Advisor to the state government on the projects, A K Mitra, also a former secretary of the Water Resources Department, said that priority to the four reaches of Dibruagrh, Matmara, Bankowal and Palashbari had been attached considering the vulnerability of these reaches to erosion and their importance in the socio-economic life of the State’s society.The Brahmaputra had eroded away 3.86 lakh hectares of area in the Dibrugarh reach between 1954 and 2002 and due to this, the State has incurred a loss of around Rs 1,500 crore.On the other hand, Palashbari is a perpetually erosion-prone area, while Bankowal area is important for the safety of the Kaziranga National Park and Matmara is also a comparatively critical erosion-prone area, Mitra reasoned.He also told newsmen that as per the estimates prepared during the preparation of the report of the Task Force on Flood and Erosion engaged by the Central government in 2004, due to flood and erosion, the State had incurred a total loss of Rs 36,000 crore since 1954, as per the 2004 price level.While erosion had caused a loss of Rs 15,000 crore, floods led to a loss of Rs 21,000 crore during the period. To manage flood and erosion, the State spent an amount of Rs 500 crore up to the end of the Eighth Five Year Plan. This amount was received from the Central government as assistance. Moreover, on an average an additional amount of Rs 10 crore was also received from the Central government annually as additional assistance for the purpose, for the past six years, said Mitra.
Simians push Nagaon farmers to the edge NAGAON, Dec 4 – Problems do not seem to end for the farmers in Nagaon district. After extensive damage caused by floods, they are facing serious threats from monkeys. Monkeys are creating havoc in various parts of the district that has forced the farmers to stop cultivation of winter crops.The problem has reached such a magnitude that many farmers have decided to stage demonstration against the monkey menace in the district.“Monkeys have damaged my four bighas of vegetables. They come in a large number and damage crops,” Ramesh Borah, a farmer of Chamaguri in the district told this correspondent. The poor farmer who had an investment of Rs 50,000 for cultivation of vegetables, but now he is now in dire straits to recover the amount. “Monkeys have ruined my life. We need some concrete steps from the government,” he said.Ramesh is not alone. Hundreds of farmers in the district are also facing the same problem. Farmers of Puranigudam, Rupahi, Jamaguri and Jakholabandha echoed the problem.“The problem has been aggravating for the last couple of years. We have lodged several complaints with the forest department but unfortunately action is yet to be initiated,” a group of farmers of Puranigudam alleged.Nagaon is said to be one of the major vegetables growing areas in the State from which vegetables are sent to several Northeastern States. According to a report there are about 30,000 farmers involved in winter crop to earn their livelihood. But, monkeys’ devastation have made a serious impact on their economy.“This is a serious problem for the rural economy. Since agriculture is the backbone of the district we want a concrete step from the authorities concerned ,” S Hazarika, a senior leader of Small Tea Growers Association, Nagaon said. According to him a management cell should be set up to get rid of the problem.Experts who are closely observing the situation are of the view that the problem is acute due to large-scale deforestation in the district. Monkeys’ have lost their habitat on account of felling of trees for which they have started damaging cropland. “The problem will be more serious in near future if forest areas are not protected immediately,” they observed.

Erosion deals crushing blow to farmers in south Kamrup
MIRZA, Dec 9 – The chronic erosion problem caused by the mighty Brahmaputra has already dealt a crushing blow to the lakhs of farmers who are currently going through immense hardships following the immersion of their cropland as well as homelands. The apathetic attitude of the government, coupled with the acute dearth of income generating sources, has made matters worse.In an interaction with this Correspondent, a good number of former cultivators, who have been leading nomadic existence for a long time, expressed the tale of untold miseries that go on compounding with every passing year. But surprisingly the government has, barring some sugarcoated assurances, done precious little to remove the woes. “Every huge plot of farming land has been gobbled up by the Brahmaputra, leaving my families in acute survival distress,” Ramesh Pathak of erosion-hit Guimari village under Palasbari constituency said, informing that the massive erosion has rendered his family homeless more than five times.The worst suffering cultivators held the successive regimes liable for their present pitiable state for not taking the gravity of the problem seriously. “There is no way to evade the wrath of the natural calamities, but the magnitude of destruction may be minimised with proper precautionary measures,” observed Khagen Das, who lost 15 bigha land to the Brahmaputra.Here it is worthwhile to note that at the reportedly annual rate of 8000 hectare, 388476 hectare of land is learnt to have been lost due to erosion. And here in South Kamrup area, nearly 50,000 bighas of cropland, including thousands of bighas of homeland have been swallowed by the Brahmaputra. Loss of land resource at this rate due to unabated erosion would have an adverse impact as far as agricultural produce is concerned.The scourge has assumed great proportion as on an average, 5334 metric tonnes of soil is learnt to have been eroded annually, some 29 per cent reportedly lost forever. Meanwhile, erosion instrumental in land degradation has caused 5 per cent to 50 per cent decline in the total agricultural output in the country.To meet the demand of food-grain requirement, considering the rising population, the menace should be tackled by adopting anti-erosion measures that could bring permanent respite to the affected people.Notably, to protect the worst hit Guimari village, measures for the construction of a 300-metre long land spur has been undertaken and boulder collection is going on. Talking to this Correspondent, Biren Thakuria, Executive Engineer, PGP, Water Resource disclosed, “for the optimal benefit proper execution of the scheme is a must”.He made it abundantly clear that fund sanctioned to combat the scourge should be utilized properly.

Consumers resent water rate hike
GUWAHATI, Dec 8 – The Assam Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Board (AUWSSB) has hiked the rates of the water it is supplying to the city localities by 157 per cent. Against the previous rates of Rs 7, the Board is now charging Rs 18 per thousand litres, alleged the Nagariya Pani Grahak Surakshya Samiti.The Samiti also alleged that the Board with its more concentration on converting the water supply schemes into commercial ventures had been ignoring the health-related issues and thus, violating the human rights of the consumers.Addressing a press conference here today, president and secretary of the Samiti respectively Pramod Bhattacharyya and Chandra Hazarika said that while the hike in the rates of the Board-supplied water was such, the hike in the prices of other items at the same time was found to be 77 per cent. The new rates were made effective since September last, they said.Again, the Board has failed to improve the quality of the water it supplies, they said and furnished a report of the Public Analyst. The report says that chemically the sample of water collected from a tap of the Board, showed the presence of higher iron content. Bacteriologically also, the water contains B Coli and E Coli which may be due to the incomplete treatment with bleaching powder, says the report of the Public Analyst.The Samiti office bearers also alleged that the Board used asbestos pipes to supply water. But it is paying no heed to the fact that exposure to asbestos fibres and dust, however, could cause asbestosis – a disease of the lungs caused by the inhalation of asbestos particulars. And after a latent period of up to 30 years and more, this exposure may lead to various cancers, especially lung cancer and mesothelioma – an inoperable cancer of the chest and abdominal lining, said the Samiti office bearers. They also claimed that asbestos was no longer used in any major application in the developed particles.Moreover, the supply of Board water is also irregular in places. Some of the consumers do not get any water. This is due to the new connections as the Board gone far beyond its capacity. Board has also not provided meters to many of its consumers, the Samiti office bearers alleged.Due to the hike in the rates of the Board, its consumers will now have to pay Rs 6,000 per year as water tax. Besides, the Board has also discriminated against the consumers who live in apartments. The residents of the apartments are relatively charged more, they said and made an appeal to the consumers not to pay water tax at the enhanced rate.

GMC move to develop localities in the city
GUWAHATI, Dec 7 – With the council of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) approving the Central Government-sponsored Community Participation Fund (CPF) scheme recently, the taxpayers can hope for development in their localities in the way they want.The programme envisages to strike a fine balance between being prescriptive and allowing demand driven, as expressed by community, initiatives emerge at their own place. Deputy Mayor Kamal Dey, while highlighting on the approach of the scheme said that the primary objective of the fund was to create capacities in the communities to effectively engage and contribute in improving their living environment. “ Once the scheme is implemented, the development process in the wards will get new momentum,” said Dey.Under the scheme, communities could submit projects for CPF approval through one or more area sabhas. The area sabhas will be the grassroot community participation platform to be established in municipalities under the Community Participation Law required under JNNURM. Such a platform could be composed of the voters in one or more polling stations. Establishing the area sabhas will require laws to be passed, however till the time the area sabhas are constituted, the projects could be submitted by community-based organisations, neighbourhood groups, youth groups etc. But SHGs, are not eligible for applying for the projects under CPF.“The CPF will enhance community capacity to effectively engage and take on responsibilities,” said Dey.Dey further said that 90 percent of the project cost would come from the Government and the community would contribute 10 percent of the project cost.“The ward councillors will take the responsibility in taking the CPF to the communities,” said Dey adding that in the case of urban poor, the contribution requirement may be relaxed up to five per cent.The project implementation duration should not stretch beyond 12 months. Under the scheme, priority will be given to such sectors as municipal solid waste, safe drinking water facility and utilisation of non-conventional energy to meet the domestic energy requirements. Communities can also approach with proposals of crèche for the children of working mothers, special centres for the elderly, building or rebuilding a local vegetable market, educating and regulating hawkers, creation of hawking zone infrastructure etc.

Camera trapping for tiger census in Orang
GUWAHATI, Dec 11 – For the first time in Orang National Park, camera trapping — the most reliable method of tiger census used all over the country and Asia — has been initiated successfully to estimate and monitor the tiger population. Significantly, the method has already yielded five tiger pictures during its trial run in the park. Orang, as per the last census in 2002, had 19 tigers. The research initiative has been undertaken by Aaranyak in collaboration with the State Forest Department. Camera trapping is the preferred method over the pugmark method for conducting estimates of tiger. The camera traps, equipped with an electronic switch and a camera, record tigers or other animals that walk in from of the camera as a photograph of the animal. “Tigers have natural markings (stripes) and stripes of each individual are different. Using photographs obtained from the cameras can be compared to identify each individual tiger, thus making estimates reliable and easier, especially for animals like tiger, leopard, etc.,” Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak said. Ahmed said that the data from the camera traps would be available by early next year and the park managers would have information about the number of tigers in Orang by March. However, Aaranyak plans to make it a long-term monitoring to compare tiger populations in Orang across years, which will be vital for proper management of prey animals and habitats in the park. Monitoring tigers and prey animals through the use of modern scientific techniques has become the need of the hour, as the tiger population throughout the country is rapidly dwindling. Though official estimates had put the country’s tiger population around 3,500-4,000, present data indicate that there could be only 1,300-1500 tigers left. Assam recorded a tiger count of 265 as per the last pugmark census carried out by the Forest Department in 2002. The camera trap was inaugurated recently by BS Bonal, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), in presence of S Momin, DFO Mangaldoi Wildlife Division, Jayanta Deka, FRO, Orang NP and Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, secretary general, Aaranyak. Earlier, Aaranyak had carried out a tiger presence absence study in Manas National Park, and a detailed tiger-monitoring programme in collaboration with the Forest Department in the offing. Aaranyak organized a three-days training programme on ‘Monitoring Tigers and Prey Animals: Advanced Training for Biologists and Managers’ in Orang recently as part of the ongoing collaborative initiative of the Forest Department and Aaranyak to monitor tigers and its prey animals in Assam. The three-days training was meant for the biologists and forest managers and it covered different aspects of tiger and prey animals monitoring. These included general introduction on tiger, its ecology and current status, concepts of population monitoring, sign survey for tiger and prey animals, distance sampling and line transect survey, capture-recapture sampling and camera trap survey, lab and field exercises and data analysis. The training was attended by seven wildlife biologists from Aaranyak and seven Forest Department staff, which was inaugurated by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) MC Malakar.
Edinburgh Zoo to start rhino research facilityFrom Prabal Kr Das EDINBURGH, Dec 16 – It would be more than a boost to the image of Assam and her wildlife, in fact it would be a boon to the Indian one-horned rhino, the species about which scientific understanding is still limited. The Edinburgh Zoo now has plans to build a new facility for a number of rhinos. Honouring the National Park in Assam where the largest concentration of rhinos is found, the new facility to be built at a cost of £ 3 million would be named – Kaziranga. In a guided tour of the zoo, which actually is more of a world class conservation and research organization, Ian Valentine of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said, “We already have Indian rhinos and the opportunity to study them from close quarters.” Inside the commodious enclosure where the zoo’s two rhinos are kept, Valentine said that both of them had the choice of spending time in different artificial habitats. Indoors, the animals lived in an area that was climate-controlled, and even the water for their wallowing was heated. They had specialized flooring to protect them from foot diseases, which rhinos at times suffered in European zoo conditions. He emphasized that the Edinburgh Zoo was keen to study more species like the one-horned rhino, especially because there were so few left in the wild. “Conserving them in today’s world is a matter of urgency,” Valentine noted. The pursuit of scientific understanding has shaped the goals of the zoo and that now manifests in several new plans. Currently under construction is a huge facility for chimpanzees. Using funds to the tune of £ 5.6 million, the Budongo project will have 40 animals housed in a three-zone facility. Experts will be able to observe the animals separated by nothing more than toughened glass. One of the major features of the Budongo project would be the focus on not just animals but on their habitat, and the people and the culture found nearby. The zoo believes that conservation messages to be effective have to serve local human interests, so the facility would dispense facts in a lucid and entertaining manner. The planned facility for the Indian one-horned rhino would likewise provide information about the land in which the species survive and the reasons for them doing so. “We hope that naming the planned facility Kaziranga would emphasize the importance of the National Park and help attract more attention,” Valentine added. Even as scientific research and documentation is among the zoo’s goals, it has also been a centre for entertainment and education for the lay person. Recently, the zoo opened a new facility called Rainbow Landings where visitors can feed Rainbow lorikeets brought from Australia. It has proved to be another major crowd puller. The bigger attraction perhaps continues to be the large community of penguins located inside their modern enclosure. A ‘walk’ by the birds enthrals children and adults everyday, which is counted as one among the unique sights in any zoo. Developed and managed with a sharp sense of ‘inclusive planning’, the Edinburgh Zoo goes the extra mile to provide facilities to the differently-abled, senior citizens and children. The number of visitors is also on the rise because its captive breeding programme has been a great success. A large percentage of all the exhibits is the result of an ambitious in-house breeding programme.

Dhemaji student body ultimatum on Subansiri dam
GUWAHATI, Dec 20 – The All Dhemaji District Students’ Union (ADDSU) today warned of a vigorous agitation after the panchayat elections if the construction of the Lower Subansiri Hydel Power Project’s main dam is not put off till the experts complete the study on its impact in the downstream areas. It needs mention here that a committee comprising experts from Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and Guwahati IIT was formed following a decision at a meeting attended by the representatives of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Assam Government and the NHPC on December 8, 2006. The mandate of the committee was to assess the impact of the power project dam on the people of the downstream areas.The meeting presided over by State’s Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi also decided that until the completion of the study by the experts, the construction of the main dam would be put on hold.But it is now found that while the study is at its preliminary stage, the NHPC has started the construction work of the coffer dam. This is due to the weakness of the State Government that the NHPC authorities have dared to flout the decision of the December 8, 2006 meeting and to play with the life and property of the people of several districts, said the ADDSU.Meanwhile, the AASU has already placed its demand before the State Government and the NHPC authorities to stop construction of the dam. But the State Government is still maintaining silence over the issue. The mysterious silence of the Power Minister on the issue is also remarkable, said the ADDSU.The ADDSU has also demanded immediate steps to repair the breached embankments of the district within January next and inquiry in to the alleged corruption involving the Rs 21-crore dam. The students’ body has also called for steps to repair the PWD and PMGSY, roads of the district damaged by the floods within the next month.

Unbearable stench at Brahmaputra bank
GUWAHATI, Dec 26 – Perhaps, the incident of hundreds of fish lying dead along the bank of Mahabahu Brahmaputra recently has failed to teach the district administration any lesson, at least the scenario at the riverside at the Bharalumukh stretch indicates that.Like every winter, though the bank of the Brahmaputra in the city is still attracting huge crowds, but unlike every year, the visitors hitting the riverside this year, are faced with an unusual problem.With the winter adding more charm to the scenic beauty of the mighty river and hundreds of crowds are thronging the riverside not only for picnic on the sand bar but also for leisure and sightseeing, the unbearable stench of the wastes dumped on the riverbank and sand bars is playing a spoilsport.“The stink is unbearable. Every year we enjoy the picnic here and we regularly visit the banks to enjoy the scenic beauty of the river. But this year we are facing lots of problem because of unclean surroundings. It is because people throw garbage into the river,” said Sania Sarma, who made a visit to the riverside to have a day out.As the water in the Brahmaputra has dried up, wastes including polythene and other non-biodegradable materials are found lying in a haphazard manner strewn on the banks and the sand bars. “Be it Fancy Bazaar bank, Kacharighat or Ujanbazar, the scenario in all the river banks in the city is same and there have been no steps taken by the department concerned,” informed Maaya Kanti Das, a local resident.“The sand bars, if properly maintained can emerge as a major tourist hotspot during this time of the year. But unfortunately, the river has becoming a dumping ground,” Maaya said

Poaching of deer rising in State
GUWAHATI, Dec 30 – Poaching of wild animals, especially deer, for meat has witnessed a spurt of late in and around Sarbhog in Barpeta district. This, together with tree-felling, has posed a serious threat to the forests and wildlife of the area. “Deer meat has been sold openly at Labdangguri under Sarbhog police station for weeks. In fact, it is being sold right in front of the Labdangguri police outpost,” Debeswar Patowary, chairman, Green Manas, told The Assam Tribune. The NGO has also filed an FIR at the Sarbhog police station, alleging that the illegal sale of wild animal meat was thriving under the patronage of the police local outpost itself. “Dear meat is readily available in the markets at Labdangguri and Kahitama. There is hardly any presence of forest personnel in these areas, where parts of Manas Tiger Reserve also fall. Our activists themselves bought a half-a-kg of deer meat on Friday for Rs 50, and presented it before the Manas Tiger Project office,” Patowary said. When contacted, Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam, MC Malakar said that the Forest Department was taking up the matter seriously. “We had discussed the matter with the Manas National Park authorities, and they said that the area was not under its jurisdiction. But poaching of wildlife anywhere is a serious matter, and we are initiating appropriate measures,” he said. Patowary, however, insisted that the poaching was going on inside Manas Tiger Reserve. “The area definitely falls under Manas, and the open sale of deer and buffalo meat testifies to the poaching going on inside Manas,” he asserted. Meanwhile, tree-felling along the Beki river has emerged as another disturbing concern. A joint team of forest personnel and members of Green Manas had seized over 30 pieces of illegally felled timber – mostly simul and bhelkar — on the Beki river at Nichukaghat and Chenguliaghat under Sarbhog police station on Wednesday and Thursday. Transportation of illegally-felled timber by the Beki river has been going on for years, as the occasional seizures made by the Forest Department would corroborate. “Recently we had seized 186 pieces of logs smuggled through the river route at Howly area,” a local forest official said, adding that transporting timber along the river had been the preferred modus operandi of the timber mafia. What should be a matter of grave concern is that the seized timber is most likely to have originated from the Manas National Park, a biodiversity hotspot and a World Heritage Site (in danger). The forest official was of the view that the forest staff was often hard-pressed to keep a tab on the timber smugglers for want of manpower and infrastructure. “The higher authorities ought to take a serious note of the matter and provide us with sufficient manpower and equipment for initiating a hard crackdown on timber smuggling,” he said. A number of illegal sawmills have been thriving on smuggled timber in and around Barpeta Road town. The Forest Department had closed down 17 such unlicensed mills at Sarbhog, Howli and Barpeta last month. “We are keeping a close vigil on the illegal mills and 17 were closed down last month,” the forest official said. Patowary said that the spot at Chenguliaghat where illegal timber was seized was located within 500 metres of a First APBn camp, a river police outpost and the Beki forest beat office. “It is difficult to comprehend how such illegal activities could go on under the very nose of the authorities,” Patowary said.

Large-scale illegal wildlife trade in S Asia
GUWAHATI, Dec 30 – Poor protection, proximity to a large market and abysmal implementation of wildlife laws have put in peril a range of wild flora and fauna in large parts of South Asia. In recent times illegal trade in wildlife has proliferated in North East India, Nepal, and Bhutan creating what could be called a conservation nightmare. Even though no precise figures exist about the illegal trade in wildlife in this region, estimates put it at least more than a billion dollars. After all, in the global context it has been placed in the region of $ 5 billion. Renowned conservationist Ashok Kumar of the prestigious Wildlife Trust of India said, ‘Although this illegal trade in South Asia cannot be rendered in money terms because of its covert nature, business is huge and has actually come to threaten or even damage the biodiversity of some areas.’ Underlining the fact that the trade has been going on for several decades, he revealed that the activities have now put pressure on several critically endangered species. ‘The tiger, the rhino, the elephant, the bear have all been targeted …the situation is so bad that inside a protected area in India a population of tigers was wiped out.’ The tiger population in India has been especially hit hard by poachers who have killed them in worrying numbers in and around national parks and sanctuaries. The body parts, after they enter the local market, could bring a fortune to those involved. As soon as the skin and bones become available for international customers they could fetch prices which reach up to $ 10,000. Another important species that has been affected by the illegal trade has been the Indian one-horned rhino, a large concentration of which is found in North East India’s Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site. According to Assam Forest Department officials, no less than 16 rhinos have been slaughtered this year alone — a noticeable spurt compared to figures of previous years. The killings acquire more significance considering the fact that the Indian rhino attracts strong conservation efforts, as it is listed as a Schedule 1 species in the Wildlife Protection Act. There is, however, another dimension of the illegal trade than just some keystone species being threatened and annihilated. Some other less well known, but equally important species, face a grim prospect with demands for them soaring in the international market. According to conservation sources the problem is becoming more acute with visitors entering remote areas and carrying out informal trade with local people. Some of them would be too happy to gather small animals and plants for a little amount of money that for them would be a windfall.National borders and the controls therein offer little deterrence to the network that carries out the illegal trade in South Asia. While the majority of the killings take place in biodiversity rich India, Nepal or Bhutan, a popular point of transhipment is Nepal and to a certain extent Bangladesh and Myanmar. From these places, the contraband usually enters the international market, a large chunk heading towards China, and the rest into Western Europe and the US. In China a ready market for traditional medicines would absorb a large part of the commodities, while the other markets would attract artfacts, souvenirs and pets. Some of the artfacts could be quite bizarre like stools made of elephant legs, or erotica intricately carved from ivory. Rhino horns carved in to small pieces to be worn as amulets or ornaments is not uncommon in parts of India, China or Myanmar. Skins of big cats are among the most sough after luxuries among some rich Chinese. The ever-hungry market for exotic pets also fuels the illegal trade in wildlife. According to WWF India, species like star tortoises have repeatedly been targeted by traders, who have customers in places as far as Perth, Singapore, London and Los Angeles. Falcons, most of them very young, have found their way to parts of the Middle East where they command high prices. Not surprisingly, the internet has further pushed the limits of the illegal trade as has been revealed by several surveys by conservation groups. The anonymity provided by the medium to the traders has made it difficult for resource-starved forest departments to mount any major countermeasure against them. In a recent internet search made by this correspondent, the phrase ‘rhino horn for sale’ yielded quite a few results, including one of a Victorian rhino horn that was stated as ‘removed’. Another directory mentioned that a rhino horn was for immediate sale. However, conservationists believe, that the trade is much more active through more discrete channels on the internet. Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of Bombay Natural History Society, India’s oldest conservation organisation referring to the problem of illegal trade in wildlife emphasized that steps needed to be taken now before irreparable harm was done to a variety of wildlife. He favoured very specific responses when it came to combating illegal trade of wildlife. ‘When one is dealing with commodities which are made into luxury items, there should be a total ban.’ While stating that India already possesses enough legislation on preventing the trade, he was critical about their implementation, adding ‘their tough implementation is still not the case’. Dr Rahmani, like some others aware of the issue, would support a two pronged approach: equip police, forest and customs officials with more information and powers, while pushing for better public awareness and education at the grassroots as well as among prospective customers. The strategy, however, is far from being adopted in the region.


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