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NITI Aayog to get India-Bangladesh rail project on track

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ModiNITI Aayog will hold a meeting in New Delhi on June 18 in a bid to break the deadlock on the proposed India-Bangladesh railway project, Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey said on Tuesday.

“NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog has called a meeting on Thursday (June 18) to break the deadlock on the 15-km Agartala-Akhaura rail project along Tripura,” Dey told reporters here.

Meanwhile, a senior state official said that the central government was “yet to provide funds for the project”. NITI Aayog’s chief executive officer or special secretary will preside over the Delhi meeting, where officials of ministries of railway, development of northeastern region and external affairs and the Tripura government will participate.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina discussed the project during Modi’s official visit to Dhaka on June 6-7. The Rs.575-crore ($90 million) railway project was finalised in January 2010 during the Bangladesh prime minister’s meeting with then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

“The central government is yet to provide required funds for the project. Land acquisition and subsequent works for the rail project to connect Tripura with Bangladesh will be delayed as a result,” a top state government official, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

He said the state government recently approached the railway ministry again to allocate funds. “No funds were allocated in the railway budget for 2015-16, even for land acquisition,” the official said.

The project cost was earlier estimated at Rs.271 crore. In addition, Rs.302 crore was needed to acquire around 98 acres of land in India for laying the tracks.”Work to lay the 15-km railway track to link Tripura capital Agartala with Bangladesh’s south-eastern Akhaura city is yet to start although the two countries are very serious about executing the project,” a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) official said.

State-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is expected to lay the tracks on both sides of the border, with five km falling in the Indian territory and the remaining in Bangladesh. “The new railway connectivity between the northeastern state and Bangladesh will boost socio-economic, trade and business ties between the two countries,” the transport minister said.

The 1,650-km distance between Agartala and Kolkata would be reduced to only 515 km once the rail track is constructed through Bangladesh. The NFR is the nodal agency for the project, for which alignment of rail line and other technical details were finalised by officials of both India and Bangladesh.

-(IANS)

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Award Winning Project Helps In Hunting Illegal Fishing

Illegal fishing and overfishing deplete fish stocks worldwide,

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Fish are seen in a fish market near the canal of Port Said, Egypt, March 18, 2018.
Fish are seen in a fish market near the canal of Port Said, Egypt, March 18, 2018. VOA

Drones guided by artificial intelligence to catch boats netting fish where they shouldn’t were among the winners of a marine protection award on Friday and could soon be deployed to fight illegal fishing, organizers said.

The award-winning project aims to help authorities hunt down illegal fishing boats using drones fitted with cameras that can monitor large swaths of water autonomously.

Illegal fishing and overfishing deplete fish stocks worldwide, causing billions of dollars in losses a year and threatening the livelihoods of rural coastal communities, according to the United Nations.

The National Geographic Society awarded the project, co-developed by Morocco-based company ATLAN Space, and two other innovations $150,000 each to implement their plans as it marked World Oceans Day on Friday.

The aircraft can cover a range of up to 700 km (435 miles) and use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to drive them in search of fishing vessels, said ATLAN Space’s founder, Badr Idrissi.

“Once (the drone) detects something, it goes there and identifies what it’s seeing,” Idrissi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Idrissi said the technology, which is to be piloted in the Seychelles later this year, was more effective than traditional sea patrols and allowed coast guards to save money and time.

From satellites tracking trawlers on the high seas to computer algorithms identifying illegal behaviors, new technologies are increasingly coming to the aid of coast guards worldwide.

The head of a model fish is seen hanging in front a banner during a protest against overfishing outside the European Union Council in Brussels, May 13, 2013.
The head of a model fish is seen hanging in front a banner during a protest against overfishing outside the European Union Council in Brussels, May 13, 2013. VOA

AI allows the drones to check a boat’s identification number, establish whether it is fishing inside a protected area or without permit, verify whether it is known to authorities and count people on board, Idrissi said.

If something appears to be wrong, it can alert authorities.

Other winners were Marine Conservation Cambodia, which uses underwater concrete blocks to impede the use of bottom-dragged nets, and U.S.-based Pelagic Data Systems, which plans to combat illegal fishing in Thailand with tracking technologies.

“The innovations from the three winning teams have the potential to greatly increase sustainable fishing in coastal systems,” National Geographic Society’s chief scientist Jonathan Baillie said in a statement.

Much of the world’s fish stocks are overfished or fully exploited, according the U.N. food agency, and fish consumption rose above 20 kilograms per person in 2016 for the first time.

Fish swim in the Mediterranean sea on the south coast of the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain.
Fish swim in the Mediterranean sea on the south coast of the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain. VOA

Alao read: Ancient tooth shows mesolithic ancestors fish plant eaters

Global marine catches have declined by 1.2 million tons a year since 1996, according to The Sea Around Us, a research initiative involving the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Australia. (VOA)