India’s North East region is one of the most strategically located region in the nation bordered by a number of countries and connected with the rest of the India through a small enclave. The region borders Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh and is also known as the gateway to East Asia and South East Asia. Its strategic importance is further increased with India’s ‘Look East’ policy. However, the region as a whole has been somewhat neglected by the government and the media.
Trade with the South East Asian countries mainly via sea has seen a rise under India’s renewed policy of better engagement with the eastern nations, but the land connectivity has been ignored which can really help boost the development in north east. Negligence has been observed over all this time for the whole region including the eastern neighbour Myanmar. It is well known that in 1947 India was partitioned forming Pakistan, but very few know the fact that in 1937 Myanmar was divided from British India. Since Independence, India has not shown much interest in its divided arm in the east.
“This is the first article in the series of North East India. We believe North East Region of India is somewhat neglected in the mainstream media, this is an initiative by The World Reporter to bring out the developments, culture, and issues faced by the people here to the rest of India and the world whatever is possible in our capacity. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay connected.“
A more attentive and evaluated approach specially designed for north east is needed for the sustainable development of the region as simply implementing Gujarat or Bihar model will not work for this nature loving and culturally diverse place where each state has its own requirement. One of the biggest step taken by the government is the setting up of the campus of India’s most prestigious research and academic institute of technology, IIT. Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, founded in the year 1994, is among the first seven premium IITs which developed with time and established themselves as the seven pearls of India. IITG has been officially recognised as an Institute of National Importance by the government of India.
|IIT Guwahati on the bank of River Brahmaputra|
Unlike other IITs which are situated in the main cities, IITG is located in a remote area which has induced it to become one of the most active IITs to take up sustainable development projects in the greater region surrounding it. From better amenities and lifestyle in the city of Guwahati to improved management of natural resources and renewal energy, various professors and their team are working for preferable infrastructure and lifestyle that would not just help the north east, but whole country in the long term.
Dr. Arup Kumar Sarma of the Dept. of Civil Engg. with his team, in one of his ambitious project, assessed the groundwater fluoride contamination in the city of Guwahati. He took his study forward to study the iron, fluoride, arsenic contamination in the groundwater and its controlling measures in the affected regions of the north eastern states.
Possible groundwater fluoride contamination motivated Dr. A.K Sarma to undertake another project for the utilization of surface water for water supply in Greater Guwahati, this will not only restore the water table, but will also help study the fluoride contamination problem.
Numerous efforts are being made for the better management of north east’s life line, River Brahmaputra and to save the river from human activities. River Brahmaputra is ideally the longest river of India, However, it is known with a different name, Tsangpo, in Tibet making River Ganga the longest river flowing through India. Unlike many rivers in the Indian cities which are dry and dirty, the view of Brahmaputra on the way to IITG coming from the Guwahati city is spectacular with its large volume of water flowing really fast and its massive breadth containing small river islands in it.
Dept. of Civil Engineering of IITG has conducted several hydrographic surveys in the River of Brahmaputra, Ganga, Mekong and their tributaries for various projects like providing measures against flood, draught and river bank erosion.
Soil erosion along the river banks have caused great concerns in the region. According to official estimates from 1954 to 2003, Assam has lost four lakh hectares of land to erosion. Large chunks of land in many tea estates situated near the banks of rivers have been lost because of massive erosion due to the change in course of rivers in the three districts. Another aftermath of soil erosion is the loss in the area of Majuli Island. This island, situated in the River Brahmaputra, is the largest river island in the world which had a total area of 1,250 sq. Km. Now it has significantly come down to mere 421.65 sq. Km, a loss of nearly 66%! Dr. Arup Kumar Sarma’s team is devoted to study the erosion in the Braided Channel of the Majuli Island with a mathematical model.
North East region consists of some of the most difficult terrain, roads and railways are still intact where British engineers had left. Seeing this, north east can take advantage of its high volume rivers for making efficient waterways. IITG’s Civil Engg Dept. feels that North East India’s water resources are underutilized and a number of projects can be taken to provide the local people its benefits efficiently.
|River Brahmaputra, photo by Sagarika Dev Roy|
IIT Guwahati is studying the scope of developing the River System of Brahmaputra as an Efficient Waterway and development of inland water transport in the east and north east India. Another study is examining the scope of linking various rivers and its tributaries in the region for flood mitigation and for efficient use of the fresh water as the river at last goes and merge with the Bay of Bengal Sea making the water unusable for drinking.
There have been growing concerns after an IITG study has found degrading water quality in the tributaries of Brahmaputra-Barak Basin. IITG is developing an environmental management strategy to tackle the issue as early as possible.
In more such research projects, IITG is studying the scope and constraints of reservoir project in North East India. In 2004, IITG team lead by Dr. A. K. Sarma conducted field investigation for developing a Detailed Project Report for a mini hydroelectric project in a remote area of Manipur.
A study conducted by IIT Guwahati on the impact of climate change on the water resources of the Brahmaputra basin brought to the light that there would be symbolic changes in rainfall pattern and temperature in the future. “High intensity rainfall of shorter duration and longer dry spells will affect the flood and drought scenario,” said, The chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), Bidyananda Barkakoty. This will cause significant damage to the tea crops in Assam and north east which is the most famous black tea in the world. Growing concerns in the tea industries, in 2011, tea gardens in Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Jorhat districts approached IITG for developing rainwater harvesting infrastructure for better nurturing of tea crops tackling climate changes.
In the area of sustainable development, quality of lifestyle and natural resources a lot of attempts and achievements have been made by the IITG, but that is not where its role ends. IITG has also taken up the challenge of refining and nurturing the most promising resource, the human resource.
No doubt every year IITG produces first class international standard science and engineering graduates, IITG has also dived into giving short term management and training courses for local students with Indian Institute of Management Shillong. IIM Shillong was the earliest addition to the well-known already established six IIMs across India. Thus, North East region received again the seventh campus of most prestigious management institute of India, IIM. IIT-G and IIM-S together will be providing courses encompassing subjects like management, entrepreneurship, tourism and hospitality with an attempt to stop the emigration of youngsters from the North-East to other parts of India, while also helping them refine their skills for better employment opportunities.
In a similar program with a motive of creating entrepreneurs in north east IITG has setup Entrepreneurial Development Cell (EDC) which is a special interest group under Technical Board of the Students Gymkhana Council responsible for activities and initiatives to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the IITG community as well as the youth of North-East India. The EDC organizes lectures, events and workshops to create a platform for students to realize their entrepreneur potential. Such a program will help develop businesses and create more jobs in the region helping prevent the exodus of youngsters from North East to other parts of India.
In a society where to most of us development means construction of malls, high rise residential buildings and hi-tech office complexes, in North East, IITG has made sure that every development benefits every class of the society without disturbing the nature, which is most revered by all of us.
A Choking City: What the Ongoing Toxic Week in Delhi Means for its People
A joke on the morbidity of New Delhi is circulating among Delhiites (people from Delhi) that while the lives of the citizens were disrupted in November last year due to ‘note-bandi’ (ban on currency), November of this year presents an even tougher test for the people with ‘saans-bandi’, a ban on breathing. The receding autumn or advent of winter was a once beloved season of a good number of people in the city who welcomed the change with a complete revamp of their wardrobes with colourful woollens. It is now characterized with bleak skies, an air of gloom and a little bit of grey in everything you see outside of your house.
For the past three days, I have been acutely aware of the air I am breathing, felt unproductive and apprehensive in spells for no good reason, and felt the need to confine myself to my house for as long as possible. These are some of the less apparent effects of the thick blanket of smog that has engulfed the national capital region. As a number of people donned with different types of masks on the roads and on Snapchat serve as a constant visual reminder of how the city is choking, a flurry of articles and news updates have presided over my feed. One of them included a horrifying viral video recording of vehicles ramming into each other due to poor visibility on the Noida-Agra Expressway as people scrambled to get themselves and their children out of the way, while some other articles argued about how currently breathing in Delhi for a day is the equivalent of smoking twenty cigarettes.
A sudden state of emergency
Less than two days ago, when the air quality in Delhi visibly worsened, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal likened the city to a ‘gas chamber’. The PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels in different parts of the capital have rocketed above the levels that are considered safe, and the Safar (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) has declared the air quality as ‘severe’ for at least the next three days after which the level may drop to a not so safe either ‘very poor’ level. In some parts of the city, the AQI (air quality index) was detected on monitors at 999, the highest possible reading, which suggests that the level might be even higher. The visibility during the early hours has also dropped to very low levels. Among the different reasons for the observed level of pollution in Delhi, slow winds at this time of the year have been identified as the prime contributor along with stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. Combined with the dust particles present in the air, omissions from vehicles that plague the roads in the region throughout the day, and those from factories and construction activities, these factors dictate a recipe for creating uninhabitable conditions.
Making amends: A scramble for order
The Indian Medical Association on 7th November declared Delhi to be in a state of public health emergency, urging the Delhi government and other bodies to take adequate steps to ensure minimum risk to citizens, especially young children and the elderly, who are most likely to suffer from the effects of pollution. After a worsening situation, the government has ordered all schools in the capital to remain shut till Sunday, and has rolled out plans to implement the odd-even scheme for vehicles in the city from next week. Parking fee throughout the city has also been increased fourfold and the prices for travel by the metro have been substantially reduced for the time being to promote the use of public transport. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also banned all construction and industrial activities till November 14 in a bid to provide the citizens of Delhi a breath of better quality air. Mr. Kejriwal has also approached his counterparts from Punjab and Haryana over the issue of stubble burning by the farmers but it remains to be seen how the move plays out in the coming days.
As the government battles against the situation, the public is taking measures to protect themselves in whatever way they can. An increasing number of doctors and specialists on the matter have advised people not to go out for morning walks or outdoor activities so as to not inhale excessive quantities of toxic pollutants. Some doctors have even advised their patients to leave the city for the time being if possible. Air purifiers for houses and masks for travelling outside have seen a huge rise in sales as nearly everyone has become an expert on the subject of filters and N95 and N99 have become trending words from pharmacies to WhatsApp conversations.
A year ago, while New Delhi wrestled with more or less the same conditions, UNICEF had called on the rest of the world to consider the situation as a wake up call. “It is a wake up call that very clearly tells us: unless decisive actions are taken to reduce air pollution, the events we are witnessing in Delhi over the past week are likely to be increasingly common”, it had said in a statement. If we are doing better than last year, it is still not enough, and all one needs is less than a minute in the open to be convinced of that. As the world battles with the effects of climate change, India’s bid to have a major global footprint in the coming decades is bound to take a serious hit if so many of its cities, and especially its capital follow a trend of being unlivable for a chunk of time at the end of every year.
Paving The Way For More Unnatural Disasters One Emission At A Time
It’s taken time, but finally, people start to realize that they need to change the way they interact with the world, and more especially with the environment. Indeed, creating environmentally-friendly approaches has become a priority for all, not only in an attempt to keep the grass in our front yards green but to ensure that the grass everywhere stays green and healthy. The Chaos theory has been part of the meteorology school of thoughts since Henri Poincaré suggested during the late 19th Century that a small change could have immeasurable effects onto the climate. The idea of the butterfly effect that has a far-reaching ripple effect on events was first used by Ray Bradbury in a short story in 1952. However, the butterfly has long left Bradbury’s story to make its destructive ripple journey through our climate and civilization. Climate change is not a new concept. But in the recent years, the climatic ripples of constant levels of pollution and lack of environmental measures have created the most unnatural disasters around the world.
Did we just cause a hurricane?
Scientists all around the world have been quick to agree that climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey. But they suggested that the horrifying levels of destruction it generated might have been the result of global warming. Indeed, while climate changes are not perceived as the direct causes of a hurricane, meteorologists believe that the ripple effects of global warming have turned hurricanes into destructive forces. Poised to become the most expensive disaster in American history, with $190 billion in damage to the infrastructure, it’s impossible not to feel a pan of guilt when one thinks that human lifestyle habits have potentially turned Harvey into an unnatural disaster of mass destruction. Donating to help is one solution, but it will not stop the next Harvey or Irma to hit us even worse.
The risk of megafire increases
Global warming is, to put it simply, caused by rising temperatures, which in return are the result of polluting practices. A recent study by Nature Ecology & Evolution indicates that the risk of megafires is increasing proportionally to the temperatures. In fact, the study predicts a 35% increase in the days with a danger of fire around the world. However, some regions are more likely to be touched, namely western US states, southeastern Australia, the Mediterranean regions and southern Africa. Between 2002 and 2013, the study identified 144 unnatural fire disasters caused by global warming. How many more to come before we act?
Plants in Europe equal drought in India
The sulphate emission from power plants in Europe have been linked to one of India’s most devastating unnatural drought in 2000, that has affected more than 130 million people. Indeed, scientists estimate that European emissions have caused a drop by 40% in rainfall. As the monsoon delivers over 70% of regional annual rainfall, the effects of a sudden precipitation drop were terrible for the population. This study convinced the European Union to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions actively.
How many more unnatural disasters do we need to endure as a civilization before we finally understand the damaging force of climate change? The answer is: Too many already. For now, only local petitions and actions can help to swing around the world governments and introduce protective measures
Personal Injury Risks Push Officials To Find A More Suitable Route For Oil Pipeline
Whether you are for or against the Trump Administration’s promise to increase energy resources, it is hard to argue that they haven’t taken action to increase the production of natural resources across the US. After finally passing the pipeline that was blocked by the Obama Administration for nearly a decade, it isn’t going to be smooth sailing going forward for oil workers or the oil industry.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a battle in court at the beginning of this year that sought to block a pipeline built near their reservation. The reason for the diversion was that the Army disallowed the pipeline to be drilled on a section of the Missouri River that is dammed.
The Army began looking for alternative routes for the pipeline that, to date, has cost more than 3.7 billion dollars for the Dakota access. The construction plans that had the pipeline running right through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have continued to be a point of major contention since their proposal. The site of the pipeline would leave many on the reservations displaced and thousands of Sioux people with nowhere to relocate their camps. That would lead to a personal injury lawsuit against the construction of the pipeline.
The only way to address the situation, according to Jo-Ellen Darcy, who was the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, is to find an alternative route for the pipeline. However, that could lead to a hold up that costs millions and puts millions who are currently working on the pipeline at a standstill. It is estimated that rerouting the pipeline could lead to halting construction for anywhere from months to years.
President Trump tried to overturn the provision for relocation initiated by the Obama Administration, believing that it was more important to complete the nearly two thousand mile pipeline that spans four states. Proclaiming that it is for the greater good, President Trump tried to push through the plans to reroute and stay the course through the reservation.
The Army’s decision through the Obama Administration was to have an environmental study initiated to find an alternative route that would be more “environmentally friendly.” Whether Trump will go with the measure to relocate the pipeline through commissioning an environmental investigation or not is anyone’s guess. His administration has failed to comment.
A sticking point is that Trump’s holdings own stock in the building of the pipeline, which may cause a conflict of interest. His involvement with the Energy Transfer Partners alignment, he maintains, has nothing to do with whatever the Administration intends to do or not do regarding the rerouting alternatives.
Energy Transfer Partners, however, has maintained that they are unwilling to reroute the pipeline, which seeks to transport over 550,000 barrels a day of oil to supply from North Dakota all the way to Illinois. Protesters from Greenpeace are very happy with the court’s decision to disallow the pipeline to destroy the reservation land, while those who want progress and energy to flow, as well as jobs, believe that it is a poor decision.
A spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, which is a pro-infrastructure group, has condemned the decision as being nothing more than politically motivated and in no way good for the common welfare of those people that the oil piping would service. Not based on any real rule of law, they maintain, it was a decision guided by politics and should not stand.
According to an oil field injury attorney, the legal challenges to the pipeline were made on the demonstration that the tribe was not only not consulted about the pipeline or the problems that it might create for the reservation, but that it would severely negatively impact their quality of life. If the pipeline were to run under the Missouri River reservoir, it would jeopardize the water source that is primary to the reservation. If the water is contaminated by oil, that could lead to a personal injury lawsuit. It was also argued that the construction itself would disrupt the sacred sites that rest near the lake, which would be violating tribal treaty rights.
The fight continues to wage over the legalities of the pipeline and its route through the reservation. As of April, the US Army Corps of Engineers maintained that there are no such historical properties that would be affected by the routing of the pipeline as was previously argued. There are no recorded cultural sites anywhere along the pipeline according to the Army, and the construction would not pose a threat to any drinking water.
Likely, the battle will wage on for quite a while between the Trump Administration and environmental groups. In the meantime, the government is shelling out millions for a project that is at a standstill until the legalities can be ruled on. A matter of personal injury and tribal treaties, there are many hurdles in sorting through it all.
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