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India looking towards SAARC nations for developing northeastern states

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NewsGram Staff Writer

New Delhi: Aiming to usher in development in the country’s northeastern region, India is engaging with SAARC nations, especially Bangladesh, said BJP leader Ram Madhav on Saturday. Working with the SAARC nations is also a part of the Center’s Look East policy, he mentioned.

“The emotional disconnect between the people of the northeast and the rest of the country is our own creation,” Madhav, BJP’s national general secretary and in-charge of the northeast, said.

He was speaking during a panel discussion on “Northeast’s strategic importance and Act East policy” organised as part of the ongoing Northeast Festival in the capital.

“We, as a government, are committed to bridge this emotional disconnect,” he said, adding, India’s development is incomplete sans the development of the northeast.

“The Indian government is taking many steps for the development of the region and is talking to Bangladesh and other SAARC nations as well in this regard. As part of our Look East Policy, we are looking to improve the physical connectivity and infrastructure in the region,” he said.

Ram Madhav attributed the backwardness of the northeastern states to emotional disconnect, physical disconnect and bad governance.

“I believe that clean and efficient governance is also required for the development of the region,” Madhav said.

“Our priority is on developing good relations with our neighbors, and the biggest beneficiary of that would be the northeastern region,” he said.

Ravi Capoor, joint secretary in the union commerce ministry, said that during the pre-Independence days, the northeast was one of the most prosperous regions.

“There used to be free flow of trade, commerce and people between the countries, which was the main reason for this,” he noted.

Citing Nasscom figures, he said, about 20 per cent of the people working in the outsourcing industry are from the northeastern states.

“If we can improve the internet and digital connectivity of the region, there is no reason why it cannot become a major IT hub of the country, and that alone can contribute significantly to the development of the region,” Capoor said.

AM Singh, joint secretary in the union ministry of development of the northeastern region (DoNER), said his ministry was trying to sort out all the issues related to trade and commerce in the region and it required a coordinated effort from all the stakeholders.

“At DoNER, we are trying to provide a lot of opportunities to facilitate investments in the region. The most important thing is that we need to believe in the northeast,” he said.

Nani Gopal Mahanta, professor of political science in Guwahati University, said that since the northeastern region was landlocked, development and commerce was a problem.

“I believe that the northeast can develop on its own. As a region, it historically had seamless connectivity with Southeast and South Asian countries and that should be looked at once again. What is required is integration of road, rail and water transport and people-to-people connect,” he said.

Organised by Trend MMS, a Guwahati-based socio-cultural trust, the three-day Northeast Festival will conclude today.

(With inputs from IANS)

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UN Agencies and Bangladesh Government Advances to Prevent Further Deforestation

Dillon says disappearing forests are putting great pressure on the animals in the region.

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A deforested section of the Chakmakul camp for Rohingya refugees clings to a hillside in southern Bangladesh, Feb. 13, 2018. VOA

U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government have begun distributing liquid petroleum gas stoves in Cox’s Bazar to help prevent further deforestation, which has been accelerating with the huge influx of Rohingya refugees during the past year.

Cox’s Bazar is home to large areas of protected forest and an important wildlife habitat. The arrival of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar has put enormous pressure on these precious resources.

U.N. Migration Agency spokesman, Paul Dillon tells VOA, the refugees have been cutting down the trees and clearing land to build makeshift shelters. He says they and many local villagers also rely almost exclusively on firewood to cook their meals.

“Consequently, the forests in that area are being denuded at the rate of roughly four football fields every single day. We are told by the experts at this rate, by 2019 there will be no further forests in that area,” he said.

Deforestation
Deforestation

Scientists note deforestation has devastating consequences for the environment leading to soil erosion, fewer crops, increased flooding and, most significantly, the loss of habitat for millions of species.

Dillon says disappearing forests are putting great pressure on the animals in the region.

“It interrupts migration pathways and regrettably forces these, sort of, artificial confrontations between animals in the wild and communities as they move into areas that have been logged out often-times in search of arable farmland and that type of thing,” he said.

Also Read: First Satellite Launched by Bangladesh

The project aims to distribute liquid petroleum gas stoves and gas cylinders to around 250,000 families over the coming months. U.N. agencies say the stoves will have additional benefits besides helping to prevent deforestation.

For example, they note smoke from firewood burned in homes and shelters without proper ventilation causes many health problems, especially among women and children who spend much of their time indoors. (VOA)