Goa: Mhadei and Netravali get separate ranges

PANAJI: Eleven years after Mhadei and Netravali wildlife sanctuaries were notified, the state government on Wednesday created separate ranges for the two sanctuaries which according to the additional principle chief conservator of forests Dr Shashi Kumar will help in “intensive management” of the areas.

Announcing the creation of new ranges, the government through a notification signed by under secretary (Forests) Maria J R Pires, said that Netravali wildlife sanctuary range will have its headquarters at Netravali and Mahadei’s headquarters will be located at Valpoi. The jurisdiction of Netravali wildlife sanctuary and range has been transferred from deputy conservator of forest, South Goa, to deputy conservator of forests, wildlife sanctuary & Ecotourism, South Goa.

By another notification, the government has bifurcated the existing wildlife and eco-tourism divisions into two. Accordingly, three wildlife sanctuaries – Mahadei, Bhagwan Mahaveer and Bondla besides Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary (Chorao) and Bhagwan Mahavi national park will come under wildlife and eco-tourism (North) division with headquarters in Panaji. The other division – wildlife and eco-tourism (South) division will consist of two wildlife sanctuaries -Netravali and Cotigao. According to the notification, the bifurcation is done mainly for better administration and management. Earlier this month, TOI had reported plans of additional principle chief conservator of forests to have separate ranges.

Agreeing that it’s been 11 years since then governor J FR Jacob notified Mahadei and Netravali as wildlife sanctuaries, Dr Kumar said that the forest department had been on the job for quite a long time. Hitherto, Mahadei and Netravali were managed by territorial range officers. Sources in the know said that the separate ranges should have been created long ago.

Succcessive governments tried to denotify the wildlife sanctuaries partly or fully. The “grievances” of the villagers there had been highlighted by MLAs for long with even promises made that they would take up the matter with the Centre.Perhaps after the supreme court ruling that, once notified, no wildlife sancturay would be denotified, the political class gave up their demand for denotification. tnn

From TOI

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Eco Tourism Park in Visakhapatnam

DRUNK WITH BEAUTY: Butterflies mud-puddling at the Kambalakonda Eco Tourism Park in Visakhapatnam. Photo: K.R. Deepak

The Eco Tourism Park in Visakhapatnam is adorned with the beauty of butterflies, tribals in Jharkhand fight for their rights, and a retired Saudi Arabian teacher enjoys his Indonesian prison life. A collection of images from India and around the world.

From THE HINDU

Arbitration & Kishenganga project

It should not be extremely difficult to arrive at a negotiated settlement on the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of the Kishenganga and Neelum-Jhelum projects, as also on the extent of agricultural use that needs to be provided for, and on the ‘ecological flows’ that must be maintained.

The Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project in Jammu & Kashmir is proceeding towards arbitration under the Indus Treaty 1960. This article is an attempt to explain the issues involved for the information of the general public, without expressing any personal opinions on the issues that are going before a judicial body.

While water-sharing in the Indus system stands settled by the Indus Treaty 1960, divergences are possible, and have occurred, over the question of the compliance of Indian projects on the western rivers with certain stringent provisions of the Treaty which were meant to take care of Pakistan’s concerns as a lower riparian.

The Treaty recognises three categories of such divergence: ‘questions’ to be discussed and resolved at the level of the Indus Commission, or at the level of the two governments; ‘differences’ (that is, unresolved ‘questions’) to be referred to a Neutral Expert (NE) if they are of certain kinds (that is, broadly speaking, differences of a technical nature); and ‘disputes’ (going beyond ‘differences,’ and perhaps involving interpretations of the Treaty) that are referable to a Court of Arbitration. In the Kishenganga case, both ‘difference’ and ‘dispute’ come into play. Pakistan has proposed the reference of certain technical issues to a Neutral Expert, and the submission of a couple of other issues to a Court of Arbitrators.

The Jhelum river in Srinagar. File photo: Nissar Ahmad

The Kishenganga is a tributary of the Jhelum. It originates in J&K, crosses the Line of Control, runs for some 150 km in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and joins the Jhelum (in PoK). India proposes to build a dam on the Kishenganga shortly before it crosses the LoC, divert a substantial part of the waters of the river through a tunnel to the hydroelectric project (330 MW, that is, 110 MW x 3) located near Bonar Nala, another tributary of the Jhelum, and then return the diverted waters, after they have passed through the turbines, to the Jhelum via the Wular Lake.

The ‘differences’ to be referred to a Neutral Expert will be regarding the compliance of the project features with the conditions and restrictions laid down in the Treaty (design of the project, quantum of pondage, need for gated spillways, placement of the gates, etc.). This reference, which will be somewhat similar to the reference to the NE in the Baglihar case, will not be discussed further in this article.

The main ‘dispute’ to be referred to a Court of Arbitration is on the issue of whether the diversion of waters from one tributary of Jhelum to another is permissible under the Treaty. Art. III (2) of the Treaty requires India to let flow all the western rivers to Pakistan and not permit any interference with those waters, and Art. IV (6) calls for the maintenance of natural channels. If we go by these provisions, the diversion of waters from one tributary to another seems questionable. On the other hand, there is another provision (Ann. D, paragraph 15 (iii)) which specifically envisages water released from a hydroelectric plant located on one tributary of the Jhelum being delivered to another tributary; this seems to permit inter-tributary diversion. The correct understanding of these provisions and the determination of the conformity of the Kishenganga Project to the Treaty is a matter for the two governments to agree upon, or for the Court of Arbitration to decide.

Any diversion of waters from a river is bound to reduce the flows downstream of the diversion point. It is true that the diverted waters will be returned to the Jhelum, but there will certainly be a reduction of flows in the stretch of the Kishenganga (some 150 km) before it joins the Jhelum. This will affect not merely certain uses of the waters but also the river regime itself and the ecological system. It may be true that only a small part of the waters (30 per cent or so) flows from the Indian part to the Pakistani part and that the rest (70 per cent) of the flows arise after the river crosses the LoC. However, the diversion of a substantial part of the former by India will undoubtedly have some impacts downstream.

Assuming that diversion from the Kishenganga to another tributary is found permissible, there is a condition attached: the existing agricultural use and use for hydro-electric power generation on the Kishenganga in Pakistan must be protected. There is indeed some existing agricultural use along the Kishenganga (Neelum) in PoK. Pakistan is also planning the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project at a point on the Neelum before it joins the Jhelum. These claims of existing uses will probably be contentious issues between the two countries, with reference to (a) the crucial date for determining ‘existing use’ and (b) the quantum of existing use.

Arbitration is action under the Treaty and is therefore not a matter for concern. In this case, the arbitration process has already been initiated. However, it seems to this writer that even at this stage an effort should be made to reach an agreed settlement on this project. The reasons for saying so are as follows:

First, arbitration by a court of seven arbitrators of the highest international standing will be a very expensive process; it may also take a long time — possibly several years.

Secondly, arbitration is essentially an adversarial process. Each side will try to make the strongest possible presentation of its own case, and question the other’s. The media in both countries will keep reporting developments in the case, probably in a partisan manner. All this will definitely cause an accentuation of strained relations between the two countries.

Thirdly, the outcome of the process is uncertain. There are three possibilities: a clear negative finding (that is, the diversion of waters is impermissible under the Treaty), in which case the project will have to be abandoned; or a clear positive finding (that the diversion is permissible) in which case, the project can go ahead as planned; or a mixed finding that the diversion is permissible but must be such as to minimise adverse downstream impacts, in which case India may have to reduce the planned diversion and let a larger quantum of waters flow down. It would be very rash to predict the outcome of the process, but undertaking that rashness, the author would venture to suggest that a mixed finding seems more likely than a categorical one (positive or negative).

If that tentative forecast seems plausible, is it really necessary to go through a costly and time-consuming process of arbitration to arrive at that result? Is it not possible — and more sensible — for the two countries to try for an agreed settlement of the dispute even at this stage? It should not be extremely difficult to arrive at a satisfactory, negotiated settlement on the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of the Kishenganga and Neelum-Jhelum projects, as also on the extent of agricultural use that needs to be provided for, and on the ‘ecological flows’ that must be maintained.

A second issue that Pakistan proposes to refer to the Court of Arbitration is the legitimacy of drawdown flushing of the reservoir for sediment-control. This is not specific to the Kishenganga project but is a general issue applicable to all future projects. In the case of Baglihar, the Neutral Expert had strongly recommended periodical drawdown flushing of the reservoir as a means of sediment control, which (in his view) was part of proper maintenance, and had observed that while the dead storage could not be used for operational purposes, there was no objection to its use for maintenance purposes. Pakistan has been unhappy with that recommendation, but could not challenge it as the NE’s findings are final and binding. It is now raising this as a general issue before the Court of Arbitration. Three questions arise:

(i) Can an issue on which a NE has given a final and binding finding be raised again before another NE or a Court of Arbitration?

(ii) If the NE’s finding is applicable only to the particular project in question and not to others, should we accept the position that there can be substantially different (even contradictory) principles (laid down by different NEs) applying to different projects?

(iii) If drawdown flushing is ruled out, then must the corollary of heavy siltation and reduction of project life (as in the case of Salal) be accepted as inevitable? If so, does this not amount to ignoring the words “consistent with sound and economical design and satisfactory construction and operation” and again “unless sediment control or other technical considerations necessitate this” in the Treaty?

These questions will no doubt be argued before the Court by the two countries.

Ramaswamy R. Iyer – From THE HINDU

“Discover Kerala” initiative for UAE nationals

DUBAI: A Malayalee association is organising a unique initiative to lead a delegation from UAE to Kerala for exploring the art, culture and traditions of the south Indian state.

The initiative “Discover Kerala”, which has been taken up by the World Malayalee Council (WMC) in association with Kerala Tourism Ministry, will enable a group of 20 UAE nationals to visit “God’s own country” by the year-end.

“Through the first-of-its-kind initiative, WMC aims to familiarise the chosen delegates, including government officials and prominent community members, with Kerala’s tourism potentials, especially backwater tourism and eco-tourism, and the art forms, culture and traditions of the state,” WMC publicity and media convener Sajan Veloor said.

“We are also trying to let them understand the potentials of Ayurvedic treatment methods,” Veloor said, adding, this will be the first time that a group of Emiratis are visiting Kerala on an official trip.

“Officials of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing have already expressed their interest in such an initiative. On the other hand, we have secured the support from the Kerala Tourism Ministry. Our members from the business community are sponsoring the Emirati delegation, by bearing all expenses for their travel and stay,” he said.

The initiative has been announced as part of the 17th anniversary celebrations of WMC which were held in Dubai on Friday. The association has also decided to sponsor the education of 1,000 students from villages in Kerala for a year and would also support an awareness campaign against pollution of rivers in the state.

From TOI

Buddhist tour connecting India, Nepal

Kathmandu: Nepal will soon launch a bus tour from Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, to different Indian cities having important Buddhist pilgrimages, to lure over a million tourists to the country during the Tourism Year 2011.

The Eco-tourism Buddhist Circuit pilgrimage tour will start from Lumbini in Western Nepal and take a round of Indian cities Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar before concluding at where it started, said Nepal Tourism Board chief Prachanda Man Shrestha.

The ten-day tour aims to promote Nepal’s tourism, which had suffered a lot during the decade-long insurgency, by luring Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, Shrestha said.

The pilgrims would get to see Buddhist stupas, chaityal, monasteries, mahaviharas, arts and architecture and religious literature from different parts of India and Nepal during the tour that would cost around 400 US dollar per person.

At the initiative of the Nepal Tourism Board, two 42-seater deluxe buses will be arranged as per the packaged tour programme that would start its trial run in November.

The regular bus service will start from January 2011 to coincide with the Nepal Tourism Year.

Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini some 2,554 years ago and he got enlightenment in Bodhgaya, preached his first disciple in Sarnath and died in Kushinagar of India.

Though Buddha was born in Nepal, the country has not received its proper share from the Buddhist pilgrimage tour due to lack of publicity and lack of connectivity, the minister claimed.

Through the packaged tour Nepal aims to get its share from around 300,000 Buddhist pilgrims who are currently visiting mainly Indian cities annually, Shrestha said.

From Zee News

Disposed clothes piling up at Agnitheertham worries tourists

RAMANATHAPURAM: The indiscriminate disposal of clothes by devotees in the sea at Agnitheertham in Rameswaram and the lack of any mechanism to clear them has caused concern among the tourists.

Ritualistic:A heap of clothes thrown by devotees after taking a holy dip at Agnitheertham shore in Rameswaram. — Photo: L. Balachandar

As per the custom and tradition, the devotees, who come to Rameswaram to perform pujas for their ancestors, throw clothes and other items in the sea before or after taking the holy dip.

An approximate estimate shows that around 5000 pilgrims take holy dip in the sea at Agnitheertham everyday, which is just a few meters from Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple. Of them, at least 200 persons throw clothes and puja materials in the shallow areas of the sea as per the instruction by the priests. The clothes, which go down to the bottom of the sea, remain there for many days. They have been hardly cleared by the staff members or agencies concerned.

Devotees complained that whenever they went to take holy bath in the sea near Agnitheertham, they had to touch the abandoned cloths, which they did not want to.

The local people said that though there was a mechanism to remove clothes. It was not being implemented properly. The removed clothes sometimes had been kept on the shore for many days. It was posing an unclean environment in Rameswaram, where a large number of devotees and tourists came from different parts of the country.

They demanded that the officials concerned should devise a plan to remove these clothes on a daily basis. They suggested that a separate area in the sea could be earmarked for putting clothes and others materials so that they could be cleared without much difficulties.

From THE HINDU