Rabbit-rearing has become a new way of life for residents of Nagaland’s Phek district, which has been reeling under a severe meat deficit.
Three years back, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra Phek, under the aegis of National Research Centre on Mithun, started a programme to introduce rabbits to the indigenous communities as an alternative source of quality meat, and at the same time, a livelihood option for farm women.
Krishi Vigyan Kendra Phek programme coordinator R.K. Singh told The Telegraph, “The programme has become a success, as rabbitry (rabbit farming) has now become a commercial venture in the district. It has also become a good source of livelihood for the villagers.”
The people of Nagaland are predominantly non-vegetarian in their food habits and relish meat from all possible sources. Common domestic animals like pigs, cattle, buffaloes, goats, poultry and dogs and even some wild animals, reptiles, amphibians and insects are among the traditional delicacies. But despite high demand for animal products in the region, the livestock reared in the state are of inferior genetic makeup and, therefore, production is low.
Singh said the aim of the programme was to popularise rabbitry, because rabbits reproduced and grew fast and were thus found to be a good option to address the shortfall in meat production. Two exotic varieties of rabbits — New Zealand White and Soviet Chinchilla — were introduced for this programme.
Phek alone has an annual deficit of about 6,520 metric tonnes of meat, and as there was no taboo associated with consumption of any kind of meat, farmers adopted rabbitry enthusiastically.
It was introduced in 2008-09 as pilot study programme in two villages of the district — Porbami Upper Khel and Gidemi — and more villages were involved in the next two years.
“The success of this venture attracted other farmers to start rabbitry on a large scale and the kendra has trained a batch of 22 rural youths of Phek town to take up rabbitry commercially and 10 of them have been linked with the SBI for loans and to avail the benefits of government of India programme of supporting livestock activity in the state,” Singh said.
Singh said economic analysis of the rabbitry was carried out in the targeted villages and the data revealed that one female rabbit gave birth to a minimum of 25 rabbits in a year. Two-month-old rabbits fetched Rs 150 in the market, thereby generating a cumulative income of Rs 3,750 from every female rabbit.
“It was estimated that on an average, every family earned a minimum of Rs 2,000 per rabbit as profit in a year after considering all expenditures,” Singh said, adding that the cumulative wealth generation by all families was Rs 27.92 lakh a year.
Next stop for footwear giants
Guwahati, Oct. 27: There is every reason for footwear companies to look towards the Northeast if one can get a branded footwear showroom in a far-flung place like Along in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Reebok, the Number One sports shoe company in India, opened a showroom in Along two months back and netted Rs 4 lakh in a month, proving that distance was no excuse for companies to stay away from the Northeast.
The company has 30 showrooms in the Northeast and will be adding another 10 in a year’s time. “We are looking at the market in hill areas where the indigenous people love to wear good shoes and are looking at branded products,” a Reebok official said adding that the company would also be setting up showrooms in Tura, Pasighat and other areas.
Liberty Shoes, a $150 million company, also announced last week that it had plans to expand its presence in the Northeast. This is an indicator towards the region’s potential as a footwear market, which is spurring new players to set up shop here.
Currently, Liberty is among the top five manufacturers of leather footwear of the world, producing more than 50,000 pairs a day, using more than 3 lakh square feet of leather per month.
Liberty Group director Ayush Bansal said, “We are seeing Assam and the Northeast as a potential market and the company is planning to strengthen its network by opening new stores. The total business in the Northeast is Rs 10 crore and the target is to make it Rs 15 crore in the coming months.”
The company, which has a market share of 12 per cent in the region, has six showrooms at present and is planning to increase it to 15 within a year and a half and also to double its market share in the next five years. “We have a wide variety of shoes and are here to stay,” he said.
The company has also announced appointment of Hrithik Roshan as its brand ambassador in an attempt to connect with the youths by giving the brand a vibrant and youthful makeover. “Besides, the collection is superbly stylish yet comfortable, just how we all like it,” he said.
The special collection will be released after Diwali and will have shoes ranging from Rs 1,600 to Rs 6,000.
The footwear sector is a very significant segment of the leather industry in India. Rather, it is the engine of growth for the entire Indian leather industry.
India is the second largest global producer of footwear after China, accounting for 13 per cent of global footwear production of 16 billion pairs. India produces 2,065 million pairs of different categories of footwear (leather footwear: 909 million pairs, leather shoe uppers: 100 million pairs and non-leather footwear: 1,056 million pairs). About 115 million pairs are exported.
This implies that nearly 95 per cent of all footwear produced in the country is consumed in the country itself.
“People in the Northeast want branded shoes and they do not mind spending more money for it. They are brand conscious,” Dhanani Shoes Limited director Washim Dhanani said.
He said as the situation had improved in the Northeast, companies were flocking into the region to sell their products. “The footwear market in the Northeast is growing at 15 per cent annually and will greatly improve in the next five years.”
Metro Shoes, which opened shop last year in Guwahati, is looking to expand to other places in Assam. “Though we did not do good this year, there are plans to expand,” a manager of the Metro Shoes storeroom here said.
Woodland had opened its outlet here in 2007 after thoroughly surveying the shoe market. “Business was good when we started in 2007. After three years, it’s even better. Our customers normally belong to the age group range of 20 to 30 years and the popular shoes range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000,” A. Chatterjee, a Woodland employee, said.
The formal shoes for men are priced between Rs 2,995 and Rs 9,000, while the casual shoes range between Rs 1,995 and Rs 4,495. Women’s shoes are priced between Rs 1,395 and Rs 7,000.
New Delhi is yet to respond to Thimphu’s comments on a draft memorandum of understanding on wildlife cooperation between India and Bhutan over a year ago to protect Manas on both sides of the international border.
A source said Bhutan has given its comments on the MoU, but there has been no response from New Delhi.
“A senior park official from Royal Manas Bhutan visited Manas National Park a couple of days back and said his government had given its comments on the draft and has agreed to the trans-boundary concept. It was now waiting for India to go ahead,” the source said.
There have been discussions between conservation agencies on the trans-boundary issues which are also supporting the cause and called for expeditious action from the host country. A number of training programmes has been organised in Bhutan to educate officials on wildlife issues.
At present, India has a memorandum of understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China.
The source said the draft memorandum of understanding has to be vetted by the ministry of home affairs and external affairs.
At present, collaboration and cooperation between the managers and staff of Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park is very strong but it needs to be formalised.
The Indian and Bhutanese park management and staff regularly visit each other to exchange information and can move freely across the border for this purpose.
Though there was joint camera trapping of tigers in both Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, the report has still not come out.
However, officials said before talking on trans-boundary issues — which is required as it will help wildlife conservation on both sides — it is important to put Manas National Park into proper shape.
There are a number of problems that still haunt Manas like the absence of control over the buffer areas. For instance, the field director of Manas has no control of these areas, which causes management problems.
The buffer area forests fall within the jurisdiction of the forest chief of Bodoland Territorial Council, whereas the core area is under the control of chief wildlife warden, Assam.
The joint IUCN/Unesco mission which visited Manas early this year has strongly encouraged both India and Bhutan to do a joint feasibility study on a trans-boundary expansion of the existing property to include larger areas of this landscape on both sides of the international border.
While Manas National Park has been declared out of danger, forest officials said it was time for Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site, which will help both the sides. India has already given its support for helping Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site.
Wildlife areas in plant way
Oct. 21: The Chandrapur power plant authorities may have to seek a forest clearance since there are two wildlife areas within 10km of the project site.
The two wildlife habitats are Amchang and Pobitora wildlife sanctuaries.
According to the rules, any project that is proposed within a distance of 10km of a national park or wildlife sanctuary must obtain clearance from the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife.
The 60MW thermal power project, which will now be run on coal, is being executed by the Imperial APGCL Power Limited — a joint venture company comprising Imperial Energy and Construction Private Limited, Imperial Fastners Private Limited, Intelli Mine Incorporated and Assam Power Generation Corporation Limited (APGCL).
The ministry of environment and forests had asked the project proponents to provide information about any national park, sanctuary or migratory routes within 10km radius of the project site.
Of the entire site area spread over about 314 square km, around 113.52 sq km is forest land (36.2 per cent). In fact, the environment impact assessment report prepared by GIS Enabled Environment and Neo-Graphic Centre is full of errors.
The executive summary of EIA report said, “There are no ecologically-sensitive receptors or endangered species within the 10km study area from the centre of the plant site.” The EIA also said wildlife like golden langur and spotted deer, among other animals, were recorded during the study period.
Aaranyak representatives, at the public hearing held today, said both Amchang and Pobitora wildlife sanctuaries were barely 2.5km from the plant site.
He said the EIA report was wrong in saying that golden langur and spotted deer were recorded in the study area. “It has been scientifically established that the study area has no record of golden langur and spotted deer. Our plea is that such wrong information should not go to the ministry of environment and forests for seeking clearance of the project,” said Ashok Dey, a senior member of Aaranyak.
The project implementers will also raise a greenbelt around the plant site, spread across about 23 acres, working out to be more than 33 per cent of total plant area. Trees will be selected based on the type of pollutants, their intensity, location, easy availability and suitability to the local climate.
Sources said generation from the 60MW Chandrapur thermal power station will start from January 2013 after reviving it by coal.
Rhino death mars euphoria over heritage tag- Low morale of staff, deficient infrastructure & incidents of poaching plague Manas National Park
Guwahati, Oct. 21: The euphoria over Manas National Park getting its heritage tag back a few months ago has proved to be shortlived.
Vacancies at the senior level, low morale of staff because of poaching and ill-equipped main ranges are a few of the woes plaguing the national park.
It does not have a divisional forest officer or an assistant conservator of forests to look after issues at the ground level, leaving the field director to do everything.
“Outstanding universal value got back the heritage tag for Manas. Our duty now is to protect it, otherwise we stand to lose,” a source said.
“Manas, unlike Kaziranga, had suffered badly and was hit by number of factors for many years. We are getting back to action and crossing one hurdle after another,” said A. Swargiari, the field director of Manas National Park.
Sources said barring Bansbari range, which has all the facilities, infrastructure at the other two ranges, Panbari and Bhuyanpara, is still deficient.
At Bhuyanpara, there are only four elephants and communication is in bad shape.
Forest officials at the national park recently found body parts of an animal, suspected to be that of a rhino, near Rupahi camp of Bhuyanpara range.
Samples of the parts were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory but the reports are still pending. As one rhino out of 11 is still missing, it is certain that the body parts are those of a rhino.
The sighting of the carcass after more than two weeks indicates that there was hardly any patrolling in that area.
A park official said morale of the rangers is low after the discovery. “It is difficult to believe that somebody had killed a rhino despite so much community support,” the official said.
The park officials had picked up a few persons from nearby villages in Bhuyanpara range. However, the villagers protested and even gheraoed the park authorities, leading to their release.
The villagers said they have always been supporting conservation efforts and should not be branded as suspects.
“Complacency had also set in after the park got back the heritage site tag. There was a belief that nothing could go wrong and nobody would kill a rhino,” the official said.
The Manas issue was discussed at the annual board meeting of International Rhino Foundation (IRF) in the US on October 18-19.
The foundation is one of the principal partners of Indian Rhino Vision.
“The meeting discussed the Asia programme as a whole wherein the Manas issue under Indian Rhino Vision 2020 was also discussed. IRF will continue supporting the IRV 2020 and rhino translocation despite the recent poaching,” Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, IRF Asia Co-ordinator, told The Telegraph.
“IRV 2020 is an important collaborative project and should continue,” he added.
Designers fan out to collect textile traditions- National Institute of Design embarks on project to preserve the rich handloom heritage of the region
Guwahati, Oct. 16: The secrets behind the intricate designs and rich colours of the Northeast’s traditional garments are being documented and preserved for posterity by the National Institute of Design.
As part of this exercise, 15 designers from the Ahmedabad-based institute are travelling to various parts of Assam and meeting members of various indigenous communities to gather details about their handloom traditions.
Aarti Srivastava, an NID faculty member who is in charge of the project, told The Telegraph, “With changing times, many of the textile traditions of local communities are getting extinct. In many places, communities have stopped weaving. Synthetic yarn is now coming into use. This is an effort to document the traditions and is being done for the first time.”
She said they were making an effort under the project to get the original textiles, as otherwise, they would get lost in no time under the impact of modernisation.
Fieldwork for the project in Assam started in the last week of September and will end by next month.
The state is being divided into five areas and researchers have been allotted the work.
The plan is to build contacts with weavers, spinners, cultivators, textile collectors, royal families and all others who would provide vital insights about the textile traditions of the communities of Assam.
For the project, the institute is collaborating with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) — an autonomous institution established in 1987 under the ministry of culture as a centre for research, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts.
Handloom weaving is a part and parcel of life in Assam. In earlier days, the women of a family produced most of the clothes required by the family at home.
Srivastava said many of the textiles had a cultural context and the study was also looking at this aspect and added that both traditional and modern textiles were being collected.
She said Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland had already been covered under the project and good textile samples had been procured. “It has been an interesting experience, as each state has unique textiles and traditions to offer,” the NID faculty member said.
She said they had made requests to various communities to give away samples of the textiles.
According to IGNCA, the colours and designs of textiles had their symbolic meaning among some of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and the use of certain kinds of clothes and ornaments was often associated with a family’s social position and achievements in the fields of hospitality and war. For instance, while the Adis concentrated on simple lines and Apatanis concentrated on simple designs and simple straight lines, Mishmi weaving was more elaborate.
Road beyond spinning yarn
Guwahati, Oct. 13: The Northeast imports 86 per cent of its garments and dress materials despite being a region known well for its traditional weaving industry.
This revelation, made during the third expert consultative committee meeting for the growth and development of textiles in Northeast region in Shillong last month, hits home the point that the region still has a long way to go when it comes to the textile industry.
The Indian Jute Industries and Research Association has even constituted the committee for the growth and development of textile and clothing industry in north eastern region this with an eye on developing the textile sector in the region. The committee, which is attached to the textile commissioner’s office under the ministry of textiles, will act as a platform for effective coordination of resources and efforts of various programmes and schemes of the ministry.
Talking to The Telegraph, the officer-in-charge of the Guwahati-based North Eastern Regional Centre and Powerloom Service Centre of the Indian Jute Industries and Research Association, Basanta Singh, said, “There is a huge gap in the demand and supply in the textile and clothing sector in the region. The gap is a whopping 86 per cent.”
Statistics reveal that the requirement of textiles, from both powerloom and handloom sectors, in the region is 1,368 million metres per annum but the annual production is just 196 million metres, resulting in an annual supply gap of 1,172 million metres. The annual textile consumption per household is 30 metres per person.
The 2010 handloom census carried out by National Council of Applied Economic Research revealed that the Northeast states were the only ones that qualified for the “only weaver states” tag, because in these states, 94.3 per cent of adult workers were weavers and only 5.7 per cent exclusively working as allied workers.
But paradoxically, only 4.2 per cent of looms in Northeast are fully commercial.
In states outside the Northeast, 81.5 per cent of the looms are used for commercial production and another 13.7 per cent for mixed production. “However, it is a potential resource if the government is able to create an enabling environment for commercial production,” the census report said.
But the actual situation is indeed bad in Assam, where, apart from the Assam Polyester Co-operative Society Limited (APOL), all other mills have been closed because of various reasons, including mismanagement. Even APOL is operating with liabilities to the tune of Rs 23 crore.
“It is very difficult to have a viable textile industry in the Northeast. To be viable, one must produce 20,000 metres of cloth daily,” Assam Polyester Co-operative Society Limited managing director S. Mazumdar said.
He said it was also difficult to export textiles to main markets of the country, as the transportation costs were too high at Rs 6-8 per metre.
Singh, however, said, “It would not be wrong to say that there are huge opportunities available in this region. The weaving workforce is skilled and the traditional designs are in huge demand. What is needed is for it to be promoted as a niche product.”
He said there was a need for installing standard finishing processes to add value to the textiles produced in the region. The look, quality and feel of the fabric needed improvement, he said, adding that this could be done only by installing the right equipment and training the region’s manpower to use them.
Osama raid dogs to hunt poachers- BELGIAN BREED TO PROTECT RHINOS IN KAZIRANGA
Guwahati, Oct. 13: Rhino poachers in Assam will be up against a breed of dog that is said to have helped bring Osama bin Laden down.
Two Malinoises — Belgian shepherd dogs — imported from Slovakia will add teeth to anti-poaching efforts at the Kaziranga National Park, and are now being acclimatised in Guwahati.
A Malinois is said to have been part of the US Navy Seals team that raided Osama’s Abbottabad lair in Pakistan and killed him.
Famed for its ability to sniff out explosives and enemy warriors, the Malinois has been successfully deployed as military dogs by the US and European forces. But this is the first time the breed will be used in wildlife crime detection in Asia.
Jorba (male) has been financed by the London-based David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and brought to Assam by Aaranyak, a biodiversity research and conservation group. Czarina (female) has been financed by Kaushik Barua, a wildlife lover.
“The dogs are trained in detection and tracking. The reason we have brought this particular breed is its extreme prey-drive capability,” Aaranyak secretary-general Bibhab Talukdar said.
“The only requirement for the dogs to succeed is that the site of poaching must be left undisturbed so that they can pick up clues.”
Barua said: “Even if you fire at these dogs, they are not cowed. Instead, they hit back. The dogs will be in action very soon.”
Assam forest officials’ best efforts have so far failed to stop poachers from killing wild animals, including rhinos.
D.D. Gogoi, divisional forest officer, eastern Assam wildlife division, said the deployment of the Malinoises would definitely put the poachers under psychological pressure.
“Guidelines will have to be framed so that the field personnel know the dos and dont’s. Any effort in the conservation of Kaziranga is always welcome”, he said.
The Malinois is often confused with the German Shepherd (Alsatian) but there are differences in the two breeds’ body structure and temperament. The Belgian dog is smaller and has lighter bones. It stands with its weight on its toes, which gives it a square body profile, while the German Shepherd has a long and sloping back and carries its weight flatter on its feet.
The two Malinoises “will continue to strengthen anti-poaching activities in Kaziranga,” a statement from the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation said. It added the breed was capable of picking up a scent and tracking, outrunning and bringing down suspects.
There are reports that Belgian Malinoises will be deployed by the security forces in the Maoist zones of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh too.