Northeast Current Affairs - 2019
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Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) in collaboration with Assam Government has launched new Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) facility connecting Neamati to Manjuli Island in Assam. The Ro-Ro facility will cut down circuitous road route of 423 km that trucks take from Neamati to Majuli Island via Tezpur Road Bridge. It will limit distance between these points to only 12.7 km with use of river route. For this, IWAI has procured new vessel MV Bhupen Hazarika and is also providing needed terminal infrastructure. The vessel is 46.5-metre-long, 13.3-metre-wide and has carrying capacity of eight trucks and 100 passengers. The commencement of Ro-Ro services to Majuli island would be a landmark event towards augmenting connectivity not only in Assam but the entire North Eastern Region.
Ro-Ro Ferry Service
It refers to vessels used to carry wheeled cargo like cars, semi-trailer trucks, trucks, trailers, and railroad cars that are driven on (rolled on) and off (rolled off) ferry on their own wheels or using platform vehicle.
Majuli is world’s largest riverine islands located on Brahmaputra River. It has 144 villages with a population of over 1,50,000. The habitants of the island are facing serious challenges of connectivity. They cross river using conventional ferry service at various locations for their day to day needs. In absence of adequate number of bridges, cargo and passenger movement takes through longer road routes leading to critical loss of time and money. Earlier, IWAI had started similar Ro-Ro service between Dhubri and Hatsingimari which had reduced travel distance by 190 kms. Permanent Ro-Ro terminal was constructed at Dhubri for the purpose. It also has constructed floating terminals at 11 locations along length of Brahmaputra waterway.
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)
IWAI is nodal statutory body in charge of development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation. It was established in October 1986 and is headquartered in Noida, UP. Its main function is to build necessary infrastructure in inland waterways, surveying economic feasibility of new projects and also carrying out administration and regulation. It undertakes projects for development and maintenance of IWT infrastructure on national waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping.
NITI Aayog in its recently report has recommended that Ministry of Agriculture to take up mission on shifting cultivation to ensure inter-ministerial convergence between different ministries. The report was titled “Mission on Shifting Cultivation: Towards a Transformational Approach”.
Key Highlights of report
Central, State government departments of forests and environment, agriculture and allied departments have divergent approaches towards shifting cultivation. This creates confusion among grass-roots level workers and jhum farmer.
It calls for policy coherence and recognising land for shifting cultivation as agricultural land where farmers practise agro-forestry for production of food rather than as forestland. It also suggests that shifting cultivation fallows must be legally perceived and categorised as ‘regenerating fallows’ and credit facilities be extended to those who practise shifting cultivation.
It also addresses issue of food and nutritional security of communities involved in jhum cultivation during transition and transformation by broadening public distribution system (PDS) to ensure widespread access to cereals and other basic food items. It also noted that between 2000 and 2010, land under shifting cultivation dropped by 70 %.
It is traditional agricultural practice that involves clearing vegetative forest cover on land and slopes of hills, drying and burning it before onset of monsoon and cropping on it thereafter. After harvest, this land is left fallow and vegetative regeneration is allowed on it till the plot becomes reusable for same purpose in cycle.
In north east India, it is called as jhum cultivation. People involved in such cultivation are called Jhumia. Shifting cultivation is considered as important mainstay of food production for considerable population in northeast India in states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur.
Shifting cultivation causes in long term causes problem of land degradation and threat to ecology of the region at large. Burning of forests provide temporary nutrients like potash to soil. Burning of forests results in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as CO2, NO2. It also increases surface run off of rainwater leading to soil erosion.