Monthly Archives

May 2019


China Begins Sharing Hydrological Data On Brahmputra With India; Expected To Share Sutlej Data From 1 June

With the onset of monsoons, China has begun sharing hydrological data with India on the flow of Brahmaputra river for this year and is also expected to start sharing data on the Sutlej river from 1 June, reports Economic Times.

Originating in China’s Tibet and flowing into India’s Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, the Brahmaputra then flows into the Bangladesh before ultimately draining into the Bay of Bengal. Meanwhile, Sutlej, a tributary of the Indus river, also originates in China’s Tibet and flows into India before entering Pakistan.

The data on the flow of these rivers holds significance for the Indian government as it is necessary for flood management in peak monsoon seasons when the rivers swell up in size because of the heavy rains.

It should be noted thought that China had stopped sharing the data on Brahmaputra river in 2017 following the Dokalam stand-off between the two South Asian giants. It had then claimed that the hydrological data gathering sites had washed away due to heavy flooding. It was later in 2018 with the strengthening relations that China resumed the sharing of data.

The data on Brahmaputra river is shared from 15 May while on Sutlej from 1 June and the sharing of data continues till 15 October every year. Last year, China provided the data even beyond the October deadline after the Brahmaputra had witnessed formation of a lake due to a landslide that had increased the water levels.Tags: 


New species of orchid discovered in Tibet

Researchers have discovered a new species of orchid in southwestern China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and the finding has been published on a scientific journal.

Li Jianwu, senior engineer of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the authors said the new species was found during a botanical survey in 2017 in the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin in Bomi and Medog counties in Tibet.

Growing on trees or mossy rocks near the riverside with an altitude of 1,700 to 2,000 meters, the orchid has conical pseudobulbs, ovate-oblong leaves, and ovate-rhomnus petals.

Researchers transplanted the orchid to the tropical botanical garden in southwestern Yunnan Province and later confirmed it as a new species.

The new finding has been published on Phytotaxa. (Xinhua))

Human Rights, International

Rohingyas trying to get refugee certificate from UN for staying in India

Rohingya Muslims, who have illegally entered India, are trying to obtain certificate of refugee status from United Nations. This has come to light on Tuesday when Railway police arrested five Rohingyas from Guwahati Railway Station here.

The GRP officials said the five arrested Rohingyas were trying to go to Delhi to obtain a certificate of refugee status from United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.

Police officials said the Government Railway Police (GRP) staff arrested them from platform no. 1 of the railway station.

At first, GRP staff had apprehended two boys and a girl when they were not able to provide valid identity proofs. After interrogation, two boys were also arrested along with the other three persons.

As per reports, the arrested persons are originally from Myanmar and were trying to go to Delhi. The arrested persons have been identified as Makakmyayum Sahenas, MD Zubar, Mohammad Kamal Hussain, Nurul Hakim and Mohammad Kalimula.

They had earlier been arrested by the Manipur police in 2018.

The GRP sleuths found Myanmar made preserved fruit packets, sweets , white coffee and various kinds of edibles in their possession.

Mizoram police had recently arrested 12 suspected Rohingya refugees—eight women and four boys—for illegally entering the state from Bangladesh.

The suspected Rohingyas entered Mizoram from Bangladesh sans valid travel documents. They were found in the residence of a woman in Bawngkwan area of Mizoram.

They had claimed that her cousin, who lives at Tahan in Myanmar, had asked her for a favour for keeping the “guests” before being taken to the neighbouring country.

Earlier in April, eight Rohingya women were detained at Vairengte along India-Myanmar border for trying to enter Mizoram illegally and were pushed back.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 after a military crackdown, triggering a massive refugee crisis. (Source: NE Now)

Art & Culture

What’s brewing up the Himalayas

Communities in the Himalayan region prepare an intoxicant as part of their prayer ritual

For the Himalayan folk, their drinking sessions are as important as their daily prayers. This spirited ritual always begins by offering a few drops of their drink to their Gods and ancestors.

A lot of precision and patience, care and a keen sense of timing go into the preparation of their blends. It takes several months of drying, smoking, fermenting and filtering before it is poured into a bamboo shoot, sipped with a bamboo pipe or into a simple glass to be consumed. Served at room temperature, these brews leave behind sweet, malty and spicy memories on the palate.

Every community in the Himalayan region has its own unique intoxicant, a concoction made from fermented rice, barley or millet, sometimes mixed with herbs and sometimes not. The Adis of Arunachal Pradesh relish their Apong, a local rice beer with different flavours. The Chang, ‘hot beer’ made by fermenting millet, using yeast is Sikkim’s heartbeat.

‘Soor’, the most celebrated elixir, overflows at every communal gathering of the Jaunsaris and the Parvatis of the Tons Valley in Uttarakhand. It is made from keem, a cake prepared from the roots, leaves and flowers of the local florae combined with fruit pulp, barley or finger millets and kept aside to ferment after which the distilled ‘soor’ is collected in a pot. For the Himachali, it is ‘Lugdi,’ a very crude local beer that is made from sour barley or rice. The sweet-sour frothy beer ‘Chhang’ presides over every function in Ladakh and is famous among the people of Sikkim too.

Dried wild apricots and apples are used in the transparent ‘Chulli,’ very popular among the Kinnauris. The enophiles of the Ribbu region of Kinnaur adore their ‘Anguri’ a potent wine made from red and green grapes.

Araq is a favourite among the simple mountain people of the Spithi Valley. The boiled rice or barley, stored in huge containers for many months is mixed with water. After another month, some of this Chang is taken in a big vessel inside which another vessel is placed to collect the araq through a process of condensation. It is covered with yet another hollow vessel, which is filled with chunks of ice and kept over a low flame for nearly three hours.

The alcoholic beverages of the Himalaya have medicinal properties as well. Besides keeping the body warm, they are a great cure for cold related ailments and fever.

by J. Ramanan and Vrinda Ramanan

The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues,

 The Hindu


Multiple threats to Himalayan biodiversity

The Indian Himalayas, which constitute about 12% of the country’s landmass, is home to about 30.16% of its fauna, says a new publication from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

The publication, Faunal Diversity of Indian Himalaya, lists 30,377 species/subspecies in the region with the entire identified fauna in the country adding up to 1,00,762.

Spread across six States — from Jammu and Kashmir in the west through Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and West Bengal’s Darjeeling to Arunachal Pradesh in the far east —the Indian Himalayas are divided into two bio-geographic zones — the Trans-Himalaya and the Himalaya, based on physiographic, climatic and eco-biological attributes.

Pit viper

Pit viper

Abundance of species

The entire region, spread over 3.95 lakh sq. km., is home to 280 species of mammals, 940 species of birds, 316 species of fishes, 200 species of reptiles and 80 species of amphibians. This put together accounts for 27.6% of the total vertebrate diversity of the country.

The central Himalayas are the most rich in faunal diversity with 14,183 species, followed by the west Himalayas, which is home to 12,022 species.

Dr. Kailash Chandra, Director of ZSI, one of the authors of the publication, said no other geographic region in the country is as unique and influences the ecology and bio-geography of the country as the Indian Himalayas.

Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) seen near Rhongo village Ladakh (1)

Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) seen near Rhongo village Ladakh 

Extensive collaboration

According to Dr. Chandra, 85 taxonomic experts and specialists of various groups of faunal groups actively collaborated and contributed more than 50 chapters on the organisms, their habitats and the threats facing them.

In addition to Dr. Chandra, the publication has been co-authored by K.C. Gopi, Devanshu Gupta, Bausudev Tripathi and Vikas Kumar.

Measuring the range of species spread over the biotic provinces of the vast Indian Himalayan land mass, the authors aimed to identify areas for future research.

Dr. Chandra said the fauna of the region exhibited an intermingling of both the Oriental and Palaearctic-Ethiopian elements. He explained that the eastern parts of the Indian Himalayas, a bio-diversity hotspot, had tropical elements with their affinities from Indo-Chinese and Malayan sub-regions of the Oriental region. The fauna of the western part of the Indian Himalayas on the other hand, comprises the Mediterranean and Ethiopian elements.

The Indian Himalayas also have 131 protected areas, which cover 9.6% of the entire protected area of the country, almost the same as the Western Ghats (10% of protected areas), another biodiversity hotspot in the country. The protected areas include 20 national parks, 71 wildlife sanctuaries, five tiger reserves, four biosphere reserves and seven Ramsar Wetland sites.

The publication lists 133 vertebrate species of the region cited as threatened in the IUCN Red List. This includes 43 species of mammals like the critically endangered Pygmy Hog, the Namdapha flying squirrel and the endangered Snow leopard, the Red Panda and the Kashmir Gray Langur.

Fifty-two species of birds are also in the threatened category like the critically endangered White-Bellied Heron and Siberian crane and vulnerable species like the Black Necked crane and the Indian Spotted eagle, among others. Of the 940 bird species found in the Indian Himalayas, 39 are endemic to the region.

The Indian Himalayas host 1,249 species/subspecies of butterflies, with the highest density recorded in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the rare high-altitude butterflies found in the Himalayas are Parnassius stoliczkanus (Ladakh banded Apollo) and Parnassius epaphus (Red Apollo), listed under Schedule I and Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, respectively.

Role of climate change

According to experts, most of the threatened species of vertebrates, particularly mammals, require population assessment and study of the role of climate change on their habitat.

Climate change is the major threat as far as mammals and birds are concerned. The impact is visible in the shifting distribution of sensitive species like the Asiatic Black Bear, the Snow leopard, and the Himalayan Marmot. “Carnivores and their habitats are threatened by ever-increasing human-wildlife conflict in the region,” the publication states.

Habitat loss due to land use change, illegal wildlife trade, forest fires and increasing anthropogenic activities pose threats to this Himayalan biodiversity, the publication underlines.

by Shiv Sahay Singh

Environment, Science

Endangered Himalayan yew, high value medicinal plant of Himalaya, on the brink of extinction

by Seema Sharma | TNN |

Kullu based GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development based in Himachal Pardesh has
conducted a study on ‘Population Ecology of the Endangered Himalayan Yew, in Khokhan Wildlife Sanctuary (Khokhan WLS) of
North western Himalaya for conservation management.
Yew is an endangered native high value medicinal plant of the Himalayan region. The several medicinal properties of the bark
and leaves of this species have increased its risk of extinction due to pressures for utilization. The species does not regenerate
from seed which is another risk factor. Six forest communities where the species is present were sampled in the study, which
revealed that abundance of the species, impacts of harvesting and its current regeneration patterns indicate that it may soon
be disappear from the Sanctuary. A plan for conservation the remaining sub-population was also presented in the study, which
could provide a template for conservation in other locations where this species is at risk.
The objective of the research were to assess the status of Himalayan yew in the Khokhan WLS to provide factors responsible
for depletion of the population and develop a strategy for conservation of the species in the sanctuary.
Khokhan WLS is located in the Kullu district in North West Himalaya. Globally , the yew is primarily valued for the medicinal
properties of taxol. As per dictionary meaning, a compound, originally obtained from the bark of the yew tree, which has been
found to inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Its anti-cancerous properties were first reported in 1964. In India, the
conservation community became concerned that increased utilisation of Himalayan yew made it more vulnerable. The tree is
also a source of drug Zarnab, which is frequently used in the Unani system of medicine. The extract derived from the bark and
leaves is used to cure bronchitis, asthma, acute headache, cough &cold and poisonous insect bites and is also used as
5/11/2019 Endangered Himalayan yew, high value medicinal plant of Himalaya, on the brink of extinction – Times of India 2/2
Besides from its medicinal use, yew wood has value as an extremely hard and durable wood product. In East-Anglia and India,
yew wood has been used for making furniture, for wood carving and also for fuel. Because of its many beneficial uses,
Himalayan yew has been exploited to the brink of extinction. Its habitats have been degraded by deforestation and human land
uses. These effects are further exacerbated by the species’ relative intolerance to fire and drought and poor regeneration.
S.S. Samant , head of the GB Pant Institute said, “Although the present study was limited to one location, its finding indicate that
there is an urgent need to develop an appropriate conservation strategy for this species. The population of Himalayan yew
throughout the Indian Himalayan region should be inventoried using standard ecological method.
A monitoring plan should be developed and implemented to determine trends in existing populations. Apart from this,
sustainable methods of bark and leaf extraction should be developed and disseminated to local inhabitant.
Further Research should be done on the regeneration of this species, both vegetative and by seed.” He further recommended
in his study that an effort should be made to enlist the aid of local residents in propagating the species. In-situ conservation of
the species should be promoted. Seedlings developed from seeds and cuttings should be transplanted to appropriate
locations in the sanctuary and their growth and survival should be monitored.
His co-researcher Shreekar Pant mentioned in the study that collection of wood for fuel by the gujjars and inhabitants of the
peripheral villages has caused damage, increased susceptibility to disease and likewise contributed to mortality. The
information gathered during this study indicated that 50% of the surviving yew trees have been affected by bark removal and
remainder are subject to lopping and felling for fuel. Most bark is collected from the largest trees (60% are affected).


Does history support China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh?

Harendra Nath Bora

As per a recent news item, China destroyed thousands of world maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. The maps were published in China itself by a Chinese company. While such action of the Chinese government seem to be related to their agenda on claiming Arunachal Pradesh as China’s, the maps, however, reflect the prevailing mindset of the Chinese public in general, about the status of Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India only. Since a couple of years back, Beijing has been frequently claiming the entire Arunachal Pradesh as China’s although its bone of contention with India in the eastern sector, initially, was related to the Tawang tract only. Such newer claims of China are not confined to India only, but also include the other neighbouring countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan etc.

As per a report, China has started raising such claims under influence of their newly grown sense on their perceived historical losses of territories comparing China’s present borders with that which had existed during the mighty Qing rulers’ period (1644-1912). The extent of the Chinese empire reached its zenith during this period which also included areas of the neighbouring countries. However, no areas of the present Arunachal Pradesh were ever a part of China under the Qing or any other rule. The present Chinese leadership being obsessed with their so-called “lost territories” have resorted to agenda, both overt and covert in their bid to recover the said “lost territories”. As a part of such hidden agenda, the Chinese are perhaps raising their claim over Arunachal Pradesh, unduly, giving the plea that Arunachal Pradesh is South Tibet and therefore, belonged to China.

Although, the Chinese claim that Tibet had all along been a part of the Chinese empire, Tibet’s history is otherwise. Historical records on Tibet are available from the seventh century onwards only. During the seventh to ninth century AD, a number of Tibetan kings ruled Tibet independently and at a time, even, the Tibet kingdom included territories of the present Chinese provinces of Gansu and Yunnan. Even during the subsequent rule of China by the different dynasties, viz., Yuan, Ming and the Qing, Tibet’s status was something like a feudatory state enjoying enormous autonomy when ruled by the Dalai Lama in his capacity as the Buddhist religious chief.

During this time, Tibet was recognised and honoured by the Chinese monarchs as the authority on religious and spiritual matter. During the Qing dynasty rule, the Chinese posted an official namely, ‘Amban’ who was stationed at Lhasa and he was like a Chinese High Commissioner in Tibet. In 1904, the British carried out a military expedition against Tibet. Led by Colonel Younghusband from the India side, the British had to fight with the Tibetan forces only and not the Chinese Army. The then Dalai Lama — ruler of Tibet — fled to Mongolia and eventually, the British Colonel signed the Anglo-Tibetan Treaty of Lhasa with the Tibetan Regent and the Tibetan National Assembly. The Chinese Amban’s authority was not taken into account while signing the mentioned treaty. The aforesaid position only shows that even during the rule of the mighty Chinese Qing rulers, Tibet enjoyed its freedom from China.

Then with fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet and after expelling the Chinese Amban he started to rule Tibet as a fully Independent and sovereign country from 1913 till 1950. In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army of China occupied Tibet by defeating the Tibetan Army. In the following few years, with a lot of political manoeuvres by the Chinese and using show of force by the PLA, Tibet was annexed to China, in spite of widespread protest and condemnation from the world community. There was, however, not even a symbolic protest from India against this incursion of the Chinese into Tibet.

India’s silence apparently emboldened the Chinese to complete the full annexation of Tibet with China within the next couple of years. The Tawang tract, covering nearly 2% area of the present Arunachal Pradesh which was a part of Tibet was ceded to India in 1950 by the then independent and sovereign Tibet just before the Chinese incursion to save the sanctity of the Tawang Monastery. Tawang areas are now legally and constitutionally a part of India along with the entire Arunachal Pradesh which status has been recognised by the entire world.

The areas under present Arunachal Pradesh except the tiny Tawang tract never formed part of Tibet and, therefore, cannot be termed as South Tibet which the Chinese often used to say. As regards China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh, no historical evidences, whatsoever are available in their support. The Chinese did not have any military control or military post in Arunachal Pradesh at any point of time. The French born historian and Tibetologist Claude Arpi has written in his book ‘1962 and the McMahon Line Saga’ that “…during the last two millennia , the Chinese have never set a foot in what is today Arunachal Pradesh & former NEFA, except for one short visit in one particular location.”

The referred to ‘short visit’ was that of a Chinese Army contingent while in an expedition to Tibet in 1911 to suppress the Tibetan revolt against all foreigners including the Chinese. It came down to Wallong and planted some token boundary marks. The same were subsequently uprooted and confiscated by the British India forces and kept the areas free from further incursion of both the Chinese and the Tibetans. In any case, a casual incursion of this type does not mean that the entire Arunachal Pradesh was under the Chinese control.

The history of Arunachal Pradesh being so, it was never ever a part of Tibet or China (except the small Tawang tract), the claim over entire Arunachal Pradesh by China is nothing but an absurd proposition under some hidden agenda or motive.

On the other hand, there is abundant evidence of India’s political, religious and cultural presence in Arunachal. The ruins and relics of Bhishmak Nagar, Parasuram Kunda, Malini Than, Bhalukpung, the Brick Fort or Itanagar are some pieces of historical evidences of Indian cultural and political presence in Arunachal Pradesh in the period of early history. In the medieval period also, the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh remained independent who, however, expressed their loyalty to the rulers of Assam and in return, the Assam kings accorded the tribesmen free and safe passage to the plains of Assam and treated with lavish gifts. Evidences are there that the Ahom kings had recruits in its army from the Arunachali tribes too.

Above all, that the lofty mountain range of the Himalayas, the natural boundary of India and Tibet is known to the world since the time immemorial by the nomenclature ‘Himalayas”, which is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘abode of the snow’, no doubt, suggest of Indian influence and control over the areas up to and including the Himalayan ranges.

(The writer can be reached at his email


Chinese online travel agency removes products referring to Arunachal

A leading travel agency of China known as International Limited has removed its travel and accommodation services to Arunachal Pradesh from its online site after severe protests were raised in the country. International Limited, a Chinese provider of global travel services including travel and hotel accommodation, is currently regarded as the largest online travel agency in China.

China’s largest online travel agency Ctrip has removed from its platform products offering travel and accommodation services to Arunachal Pradesh following objections raised by Chinese netizens.

A report in the Global Times stated that the travel agency had removed the services after ‘We media’ exposed screenshots of its webpage and phone application that had shown products calling South Tibet as Arunachal Pradesh.

The report quoted a Ctrip publicity department employee as saying that the company had removed the wrong information overnight after noticing the ‘We media’ reports.

The report further added that Ctrip in its statement did not confirm or deny that the information refers to the depiction of the Sino-Indian border.

Ctrip said that it was determined to safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will launch a comprehensive investigation to avoid similar problems from happening again.

Ctrip’s action came after a Beijing based think tank website showed that search results for ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ in both Chinese and English display hotels in the region. However, the geographical description of such sites are in India, the report added.

In March, nearly 30,000 world maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of India and Taiwan as a separate country have been destroyed in China.

Source : Global Times

Indigenous no-state people

India’s newest pit viper found in Arunachal Prades

A team of herpetologists carrying on research about diet, breeding pattern and habitat of snakes

India now has a fifth brown pit viper but with a reddish tinge. A team of herpetologists led by Ashok Captain have described a new species of reddish-brown pit viper — a venomous snake with a unique heat-sensing system — from a forest in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Rich in ecology

The discovery, published in the March-April volume of the Russian Journal of Herpetology, makes the Arunachal pit viper (Trimeresurus arunachalensis) the second serpent to have been discovered after the non-venomous crying keelback in the State’s Lepa-Rada district in 2018.

The new species also makes Arunachal Pradesh the only Indian state to have a pit viper named after it.

Mr. Captain, who made the discovery with V. Deepak, Rohan Pandit, Bharat Bhatt, and Ramana Athreya said India had four brown pit vipers before the Arunachal Pradesh discovery.

The other four — Malabar, horseshoe, hump-nosed and Himalayan — were discovered 70 years ago. “We don’t know anything of the Arunachal pit viper’s natural history as only one male has been found so far. More surveys and sightings of this species would gradually give us an idea of its habits, diet and breeding, whether it lays eggs or bears live young,” he told media.

Led by Mr. Athreya, a reasearch team from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, had encountered the snake while conducting biodiversity surveys in Arunachal Pradesh’s Eaglenest region. A resident of the area had first shown Mr Pandit the snake in a forest patch near Ramda village.

DNA analysed

Comparative analyses of DNA sequences by Mr. Deepak and examination of morphological features by Mr. Captain suggested that the snake belonged to a species not described before.

Mr. Bhatt, a scientist of the Arunachal Pradesh forest department, said that the single known specimen of this species makes it currently the rarest pit viper in the world. The specimen was donated to the museum of the State Forest Research Institute in Itanagar.