Showing posts with label Arunachal Pradesh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arunachal Pradesh. Show all posts
12 May 2014

Arunachal Landslides Hit Traffic

Itanagar, May 12 : Landslides triggered by the first monsoon spell have snapped surface communication to Tezu in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh.
According to official sources, heavy landslides beyond 5 km point from Tohangam (O Point) have brought vehicular movement to a standstill.
In order to restore road connectivity, the Border Roads Organization (BRO) has deployed both men and machinery; but it is struggling to clear the debris as continuous rainfall was hampering restoration activities, sources said.
“Due to sinking of the steep hill and continuous mudslide, it is foiling our rigorous efforts. For few hours the mud was cleared and the road was made thorough but the continuous rain is creating hurdles in restoration works,” BRO official P K Gupta informed.
The Alubari Ghat, connecting Tezu with Namsai, had also been closed owing to surging waters of the Lohit river and its tributaries, sources said.
Meanwhile, passenger vehicle services from Tezu to Tinsulia and Itanagar have been suspended for last three days resulting in scarcity of essential commodities, sources added.
A report from Pasighat stated that normal life has been severely affected in East Siang district following incessant downpour in the past couple of days.
Continuous downpour in the district had resulted in water logging in many places at Pasighat, the headquarter town while the Siang river and its tributaries were in high spate.
08 April 2014

In Arunachal, out of 3,77,272 only 6 women in fray for Polls

Itanagar, Apr 8 : The women form the majority of the electorate in Arunachal Pradesh but when it comes to contesting elections the numbers are at the odds with their population, with only 6 of them joining the fray for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls and Assembly elections.

The state has 3,77,272 women electorate against 3,75,898 males, with several Assembly constituencies having more women voters than males.

They are in fray in only six Assembly seats in the state and in none of the two Lok Sabha seats.

Arunachal will hold simultaneous polls for the 60-member Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats in the second phase of voting on April 9.

Congress has this time fielded two women candidates - Karya Bagang (Chayangtajo) and Gum Tayeng from Dambuk constituencies compare to none from the BJP. NCP has fielded Taba Nirmali (Yachuli) and the People's Party of Arunachal has nominated Toko Sheetal for the prestigious Itanagar LS seat.

Yai Mara (Likabali) and Anita Payeng (Lekang) are contesting as independents.

The limited participation of women has irked the chairperson of Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Women chairperson Gumri Ringu.

"All political parties before election assure to provide opportunity to women but the real scenario changes when time comes," she said while lamenting that in the male-dominated Arunachalee society, women were always neglected.

She also blamed the fair sex for not coming out of their homes to participate in the electoral process.

National Alliance of Women secretary Jarjum Ete, however, said the sudden dissolution of the house on March 6 was the reason behind the low participation of women candidates.

"The sudden dissolution of the house 6 months ahead of the schedule forced the aspiring women candidates to keep away from joining the fray as they did not get time to gear up," Ete said adding their financial condition also deterred several candidates.

Toko Sheetal, the PPA candidate for Itanagar Assembly constituency agreed that there were few women in active politics.
07 April 2014

First Train Service in Arunachal Rolls Out

Itanagar, Apr 7 : A passenger train would roll down from Tezpur to Naharlagun through the newly built Harmuti-Naharlagun railway line tomorrow to put landlocked Arunachal Pradesh on the railway map of India, informed Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

While fixed wing aircraft from Itanagar airport and intensified helicopter services to improve air
connectivity, power crisis would end with the generation of additional 3,000 MW of hydropower in next five years, he said ILP would be issued online and an all-tribe cultural centre will be set up at Itanagar. Mr Tuki was addressing a Congress road rally at Ganga, near here this afternoon.

The chief minister's Universal Health Insurance Scheme, 24X7ambulance service in the Capital Complex, a Rs 5,000-crore sustainable development project, medical and nursing colleges, medical tourism, single window system to promote investors with the Centre's support, improved banking facilities, one lakh employment generation within five years to channelize the youth energy for state development as mentioned in the manifesto would be fulfilled, Mr Tuki disclosed.

Congress would repeat the history maintained since 1980 to rule Arunachal Pradesh, he said, adding the state is marching to become a developed state, which is the contribution of Congress. 'Haath hamesha aap k saath hai. Vote your hand for your welfare,' Mr Tuki appealed to the people.

'BJP leader Narendra Modi's warning to Arunachal chief minister at Itanagar amounted to insulting the people of Arunachal Pradesh', said Western parliamentary INC candidate Takam Sanjoy and announced 'to launch bhook hartal (Stir) in Delhi after May 16 till Modi tenders public apology' to the applause of the gathering.

Opposition BJP is yet to release manifesto while the Congress did it 10 days go enlisting its vision for the people and the nation, he said, adding 'Congress fulfills its promises unlike other opposition parties'.

Promising to remove the prevailing ills in the society for the rule of law to prevail, Mr Sanjoy spelt out state's approved projects in the pipeline.

Highlighting few developmental projects initiated by Congress rule government, the MP said, these were the outcome of concerted efforts of the state government.

He, however, assured to build a cremation ground for non-Arunachalees and facilitate issue of ILP at the Banderdewa check gate to promote tourism besides completing the capital development agenda, he has initiated, Mr Kaso said in his emotional appeal to the masses to vote.

With Rs 3,500 in Hand, Arunachal Candidate Fights Crorepatis

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Itanagar, Apr 7 : Arunachal Pradesh, which is heading for simultaneous elections to its 60-member state assembly alongside the Lok Sabha polls on April 9, will see a contest among crorepatis in most of the seats. But while 91 of the candidates are crorepatis, there is at least one candidate who has joined the fray with just Rs 3,500 cash in hand and a bank balance of just Rs 40.44.

“I am a poor man. I do get a pension because I am a former MLA. But that is hardly enough for me to survive,” says Bida Taku, former Congress MLA from Seppa in East Kameng district, who is contesting as a People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) candidate from Lekang LAC in Lohit district.

The Rs 3,500 cash and the bank balance of Rs 40.44 are all the assets, movable or immovable, that Taku, 55, has declared in his affidavit. Taku is a former minister (in the Gegong Apang government during 1995-99). At least two of his rivals in the five-cornered contest for Lekang are crorepatis.

“Yes, I have two wives, but they have their own businesses, in which I have no share. The Mahindra Xylo in which I am moving around for my election campaign belongs to one of my wives, who has bought it with her income,” said Taku. Interestingly, Taku is taking on former minister Chowna Mein on the latter’s home turf of Lekang, eyeing the non-tribal votes which constitute an overwhelming majority in the assembly constituency.

Taku said the Lekang assembly seat has over 15,000 voters, of whom over 10,000 are either from Assam or are Deuri tribals whose ST status was withdrawn in the early 1990s.

“I am fighting the polls on two major issues, permanent residents’ certificates for the genuine non-tribals domiciled in Lekang, and ST status for the Deuri and Mishing communities,” Taku said.
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Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Arunachal Pradesh Election Watch has revealed that as many as 91 of the 152 candidates in the frary are crorepatis, who comprise more than 60 per cent of the total contestants.

This, interestingly, is a significant increase against 61 crorepatis (41 per cent) in the 2009 assembly elections — and many of them have become rich after they won the last election.
31 March 2014

Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee says Money envelopes ‘unknowingly’ given to journalists

APCC clarifies that envelopes containing money were meant to be distributed to committee staff

Itanagar, Mar 31 : After a section of Arunachal Pradesh’s media accused Congress of trying to bribe media, the APCC on Sunday said envelopes containing money were “unknowingly” handed over to few journalists.

Arunachal Press Club (APC) and Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalist (APUWJ) lodged a complaint with Chief Electoral Office (CEO) against Congress on Saturday accusing it of violating model code of conduct by trying to bribe media.

In a letter addressed to the CEO, APCC stated that “a few envelopes containing some amount intended to be disbursed to APCC staff’s over time payment received from the party’s accountant, were unknowingly handed over to few journalists”.

APC and APUWJ had in the complaint claimed that APCC violated the MCC by distributing envelopes containing some cash to media persons after the release of party’s manifesto at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan here on March 27.

Meanwhile, People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) on Sunday urged the CEO to take appropriate legal action against Congress.

Claiming that Congress and BJP in the state have chartered choppers to be used in election campaigning, PPA urged the CEO to keep strict vigil at airfields and landing grounds and conduct thorough checking of luggage to stop illegal movement of ‘cash or kind’ involving any contesting candidate or his agents.

The party said those choppers might be used for illegal movement of cash for the purpose of buying votes during the campaign.
17 February 2014

Scrap 15 of 44 dams planned across Siang in Arunachal: CWC report

By Nitin Sethi
A bird’s eye view of the difficult terrain and hills of Arunachal Pradesh flocked by clouds as seen from an MI-17 helicopter near the Brahmputra basin, also known as Siang. File photo: Akhilesh Kumar
The Hindu A bird’s eye view of the difficult terrain and hills of Arunachal Pradesh flocked by clouds as seen from an MI-17 helicopter near the Brahmputra basin, also known as Siang. File photo: Akhilesh Kumar

They will hit ecology and biodiversity as far away as Assam

A report commissioned by the Central Water Commission has recommended scrapping of 15 of the 44 dams planned across the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh. It has also suggested stricter regulations for the ones that are to be built in future.
The report has warned that the proposed 44 dams, meant to establish a capacity of 18,293 MW, will affect the river ecology and biodiversity and the region all the way down to Assam. Cumulatively, the projects will impact more than 500 km of river stretch. Of this, 353 km will be converted into reservoirs, and water will travel through tunnels for another 160.8 km. More than 18,000 hectares of forests will be impacted.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests will consider the report at the next meeting of its Forest Advisory Committee before it assesses the controversial 700-MW Tato II project, which the UPA government has pushed hard to clear. But the CWC report notes that the downstream impact of the dams will be felt all the way to Guwahati.
The report notes: “Siang Lower HEP (2,700 MW), Siang Upper Stage II (3,750 MW) and Siang Upper Stage I (6,000 MW) are planned to cover almost the entire length of the Siang in India. 208.5 km of the river will be converted into one continuous reservoir as all three projects are planned back-to-back without any free flowing intermediate river stretch.”
The report only asks for the smaller capacity dams, with a total capacity of 473.5 MW, to be done away with.
“It is strongly recommended that after dropping these projects, these river reaches should be kept free. These projects should not be re-allotted by altering their features, locations and names. Also on other free stretches/tributaries, no further hydropower projects should be planned/allotted in the entire Siang basin even if they are small (less than 25 MW) and do not fall within the purview of the EIA notification,” says the report.
The Ministry has decided to assess the Tato II project for clearance, claiming it is the first project in the river basin, though it assessed the 1,000-MW Siyom (Middle Siang) project for environmental clearance as far back as 2004-05.
The Ministry’s panel for forest clearances will also review the Lower Yamne State I and II projects, which fall in the Siang river basin and add up to 184 MW. The CWC report has assessed this sub-basin to be of the highest biodiversity value in the overall Siang basin.
16 December 2013

Tawang, W Siang record season's first snowfall

Itanagar, Dec 16 : Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh has recorded the season's first snowfall since last Wednesday, bringing cheer to local residents as well as tourists.

With the temperature plummeting below zero degree celsius, moderate snowfall was also recorded at Sella Pass, located at an altitude of 13,721 feet from the sea level, on the Tawang-Bomdila road, official sources informed on Saturday.

The district which borders China, received a few inches of snowfall in the past three days. The snowfall in Tawang town is comparatively less than in the adjoining areas of the district, sources said. People preferred to remain indoors due to sharp dip in temperature, sources said.

According to locals, snowfall on or before Torgya, a three-day monastic festival celebrated in the renowned Tawang monastery in January, is considered a good omen.

Tourists and locals took to the streets, celebrating the first snowfall of the season and clicking photographs. Snowfall has also been recorded at the mountains of Mechukha Valley in West Siang district since the last couple of days.

The entire valley is reeling under a cold wave, sources added.
09 December 2013

Silence and serenity in India

By Michael Snyder

Copy of si INDIA3JPG~Villagers begin the first stages of the rice harvest near the village of Hong in the remote Ziro Valley in the Northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Photo: Michael Snyder

New Delhi - When the music ended, the valley fell silent. In the last weeks of September, the monsoon rains had largely receded, but elephantine clouds continued to pour over the hillsides, drifting close overhead and dropping dramatic shadows across the golden paddies carpeting the valley floor. Cupped like so much still water in the upraised hands of the Himalayas, the Ziro Valley had returned, once again, to its customary quiet.
Over the previous three days, the second Ziro Festival of Music – one of the newest additions to India’s rapidly expanding festival circuit – had brought some 1 200 people to the valley. They’d travelled from across the neighbouring Seven Sister states of the remote north-east, and from India’s big cities, to Arunachal Pradesh, the sparsely populated hill state that bursts from the plains and tea plantations of Assam and rises toward the Tibetan plateau.
Like all the artists and journalists who attended the festival, I arrived by road from Guwahati, the nearest major city with an airport. The drive – I would describe it as harrowing, but that seems like an exaggeration, albeit a mild one – took 18 hours, beginning along the flat banks of the Brahmaputra River and continuing, in its final 100km, along pockmarked switchbacks that hugged the contours of the hillsides as they rose through subtropical jungle toward the gentle alpine hills that enclose Ziro.
The lack of infrastructure, and the travel permits required to enter the state because of its disputed northern border with China, make getting to Arunachal complex, which has kept the state well off the grid. In its small way, the festival has begun to put Ziro on the map, but like most of Arunachal and the north-east, this remains tribal territory: amazingly diverse, virtually unexplored and beautiful beyond all reason.
Ziro, for instance, is home to the Apatani tribe, one of 26 major tribes (there are more than 100 sub-tribes) that make up Arunachal’s minuscule population. With just 1.4 million people spread over 82 880 square kilometres of jungle-covered hills, alpine valleys and snow-capped mountains, Arunachal has the lowest population density of any state in India. Yet follow the single road that heads north out of Ziro, first climbing through pine forest before dropping suddenly into a deeper valley lush with bananas and primeval fern trees, and you enter an entirely different tribal zone, with different styles of housing, different festivals, a different language.
After the Ziro festival, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley – two former members of Sonic Youth who played the last show – held a news conference. “This is beyond what we thought we’d come to India for,” Ranaldo said of Ziro. And it’s true: most travellers associate India with drama – with chaos, riotous colours and the constant possibility of transcendence and disaster. Ziro bestows a calm that feels like absolution.
Copy of si INDIA4JPG
Women from throughout the state's central districts travel to Ziro on government stipends to refine their skills before going home to teach classes in their villages.
The scriptures of the earliest Tibetan Buddhist sect describe seven sacred beyul, or hidden valleys, a concept that led James Hilton, in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, to create the mythical Himalayan utopia of Shangri-La. That’s a name that gets bandied around a lot by tourism ministries and enthusiastic tourists alike. Kashmir, Swat and Hunza have been described as tragic Shangri-Las lost to the ravages of war. Bhutan, with its famous Gross National Happiness index, long history of isolation and highly restrictive travel policies, is sometimes described as the last Shangri-La.
Before leaving for Arunachal, I heard several people describe it as yet another one: the seventh beyul, exquisitely preserved, sublime in its isolation.
I was, of course, sceptical. But then, I hadn’t yet seen Ziro.
Shri Buga Bullo and his wife, Yagyang, live in a village called Hong. Inside their home, the tightly woven bamboo walls blocked out the brilliant sun that had warmed the Ziro Valley to an unusually hot 32°C. Like all traditional houses here, the Bullos’ home centres on a communal fireplace and a hanging three-tiered rack that held skewers of drying meat, firewood and, on top, a massive sheet of fat and skin from a pig, petrified and preserved over decades by the constant smoke from the fire below.
Like the dozens of horned mithun skulls stacked in the corner (mithun is an indigenous, semi-domesticated bull), collected from ceremonial sacrifices performed over many years, the slab of fat is a sign of prosperity.
Buga crouched on one side of the fire with a century-old silver pipe clamped between his withered lips and chatted in the local Apatani dialect with Tajo Michi, who has led tours around the north-east for the past nine years. (He goes by Christopher for the convenience of foreign tourists, and for the past two years has run his own agency, Northeast Holiday Tour & Travels.
Copy of si INDIA2~
Women weave traditional textiles of the Adi tribe from a neighboring region of Arunachal Pradesh at the Handicrafts Emporium just outside the center of Hapoli town in the Ziro Valley.
On the far side of the fire, Yagyang prepared a metal pitcher of rice beer, a milky, sweet-sour drink brewed in nearly every house in the valley. Like many women of her age (which is indeterminate; birthdays are neither marked nor celebrated among the Apatani), Yagyang wears the nose plugs and facial tattoos that distinguish the local women from those of neighbouring tribes: a single blue line from the forehead to the tip of the nose and five separate lines running from the lower lip to the chin.
The origin of these tattoos is obscure. The common story goes that they were designed to disfigure the Apatani women, who were otherwise so beautiful that men from the surrounding tribes would raid the valley to kidnap them. Koj Mama, the president of the Arunachal Pradesh Birding Club and director of Brahmaputra Tours, said this was almost certainly an invention.
As Tajo, Koj and I drank our rice beer, Buga stood – bent forward nearly 90º, his topknot held at his forehead by a long reed – to retrieve a jar of Apatani salt for us to eat with the drink. The fine black powder is made from the evaporated liquids pressed out of a locally grown grass. It’s vegetal, briny flavour, infused with the metallic tang of iodine, gives the final kick to a local delicacy known as pike pilla, a simple stew made from smoked pork or mithun skin.
Unlike neighbouring tribes that have long practised a nomadic style of shifting cultivation (called jhum), the Apatani have been settled in the valley since their prehistoric migration from the north, giving them the opportunity to develop uniquely sophisticated agricultural and craft techniques.
The wet paddies that line the valley floor, for instance, double as fisheries for small freshwater fish, which are either dried and fermented for chutneys or steamed in a hollow stalk of bamboo sealed with leaves and placed in the hot coals of an open fire. This preparation, called sudu, is also commonly used for chicken, liver, eggs and rice. Canny guides like Tajo and Koj – all highly attuned to global trends – will make a point of telling you that the food here is entirely local and organic, an understatement if ever I’ve heard one.
At the Government Craft Emporium, housed in a creaky colonial bungalow in the village of Salang, craftspeople from the surrounding region receive stipends to come and improve their skills, weaving the traditional geometric shawls and gales (a type of sarong) of the Apatani, Nyishi and Adi tribes. Wander through the compound, and you’ll see a woman from the Buddhist Monpa tribe in the state’s north-west tying small woollen carpets, a blacksmith crafting tribal machetes and a carpenter fashioning all manner of objects out of bamboo. Some of these craftsmen stay permanently at the centre, while others return to their home villages to pass the skill along. At the mporium store, the final products are sold at shockingly low prices, as little as 450 rupees (about R70) for a handwoven gale.
In about four hours, you can walk the road that loops between the villages skirting the edge of the valley floor, and in a day or so you can complete the trail through the dense forest just above. You can linger in the villages themselves, walking beneath the tall ceremonial wooden masts known as babos left from the myoko festival held every March – part of the prevailing sun-and-moon worship tradition – and past old women sifting millet and rice on their front porches.
On my last evening, after a brief sunset hike into the forest between Hong and Hari villages, Tajo and I stopped at a house to sample another brew of rice beer and a potent (though barely potable) distilled rice liquor. We ate skewers of beef taken straight from the smoking rack and thrown into the coals.
At another house, we ate fish sudu and hot chutneys, and at the end of the night we returned to my own home-stay in a traditional bamboo house back in Hong, where the owner, Tom, made arrangements for my onward journey the next day.
After a long day, I fell fast asleep on a bamboo pallet to the conspicuous sound of absolutely nothing.
“There’s nothing to see here,” Tajo Nido (another Tajo) told me a day later. We sat on the porch of his aunt’s bamboo hut, built on stilts on a forested hillside looking out over the crests of the surrounding mountains and the sparse wooden and bamboo houses that make up the village of Raga. Home makes us blind.
But then, of course, Tajo is right to some extent: there really isn’t anything to see in Raga, if we’re using “see” to mean “do”. Two hours north of Ziro, Raga sits at a lower elevation, but from its hilltop perch it overlooks the surrounding range of mountains, the kind that hint at higher ones just over the next ragged line embossed upon the sky.
The few visitors who pass through here usually do so en route to the town of Daporijo, in the neighbouring district of Upper Subansiri.
I myself came here for no particular reason, save for the fact I didn’t have quite enough time to go anywhere else and wanted, after five days in Ziro, to see something of Arunachal’s diversity.
The Nyishi tribe living just outside Ziro bears certain similarities to the Apatani: both tribes, like many in Arunachal’s central swathe, are still primarily animist (although the recent arrival ofmissionaries from the evangelical state of Mizoram to the south has begun to change that); both tribes subsist almost entirely on agriculture; both tribes prepare food using similar ingredients, though the Nyishi make greater use of tropical plants such as banana flower and lack ingredients such as Apatani salt.
Yet the structure of the place, the style of the houses, the character of the people and the landscape, lends Raga a different personality.
If Ziro has minimal infrastructure for visitors, then Raga has none. The people who took me around did so out of generosity, a special trait that, throughout the largely unvisited north-east, remains remarkably untainted by the cynicism that can at times make travelling in other parts of India so frustrating.
I spent my first evening in Raga at Tajo’s home near the market in the town centre, where the next day I sampled another homemade rice brew in a ramshackle house near a mechanic’s garage. At the family home, Tajo’s stepmother poured us fresh millet wine, sweet and warm and only beginning its fermentation. I used a machete to help Tajo gut the small fish that had come in that day from Ziro, and narrowly avoided losing my left hand.
The next evening, Topu Banor, the 19-year-old son of a local folk musician, took me on a short walk from the Circuit House (a simple government accommodation opened only on days when visitors come through, and usually reserved for local dignitaries) to the top of the hill overlooking the town. We walked in the waning afternoon along a muddy road built a couple of years earlier with government funds, Topu told me, but neither completed nor put into use.
It’s a typical story of negligence that reflects Arunachal’s ongoing battle against its almost impossible topography and immense distance from India's centres of power. It also reflects the sense of alienation that remains, also kind of miraculously, tempered by the delirious optimism that has become India’s trademark in the 21st century. “In five years, Raga will be a developed town,” Topu boasted. Perhaps. Time, too, tends to be flexible out here.
As we neared the top of the hill, the clouds and mist so typical in the Land of Dawn-Lit Mountains (the almost too poetic translation of Arunachal Pradesh) had lowered over the faces of the hills, like the cataracts beginning to creep over Buga Bullo’s ageless eyes. Drops of water left the tall grasses along the roadside wet as Topu led me towards a small field on the final rise, stubbled with corn stalks.
“You haven’t been here, no?” he asked.
“No,” I said, as he pushed forward through the damp grass.
In the previous days, I had seen places and views that were more perfect, more calming in their pastoral beauty, yet looking out again over a hallucinogenic swirl of hills and clouds and forest, fading through grey towards purple-black night, I couldn’t dispute what he said next as he led the way forward with a small, bashful laugh: “Come. I will show you heaven.” – The Washington Post
l Snyder is a freelance writer based in Mumbai and a contributing editor to Architectural Digest India.
If You Go...
Jet Airways flies to Guwahati in Assam, the nearest major airport to Arunachal Pradesh, from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Buses run regularly from Guwahati to Itanagar (from about $9 (R91), nine to 11 hours), where Jeep connection is available to Ziro (about $8, five to seven hours). Private vehicles can also be arranged from Guwahati directly to Ziro, starting at around $40.
Protected Area Permits, required for all foreign visitors travelling to Arunachal Pradesh, can be arranged in person at the Arunachal tourism office in New Delhi or, more conveniently, through a guide or tour operator.
Permits for 30 days cost $50, plus an additional handling fee if booked through an agent or operator.
Ziro Valley Resort
Biiri Village, Ziro
Comfortable and charming, if a bit creaky, and a 15-minute walk from Hong village. Restaurant offers decent renditions of North Indian and Indian Chinese dishes as well as alcoholic beverages. Double rooms from $25 a night.
Siiro Resort
Siiro Village, Ziro
A bulky new building made of logs and rough stone, set at the southern edge of the valley. The restaurant here serves no alcohol. Double rooms from $25.
Home stays
There are eight home-stays spread across five villages in the valley, six in concrete houses with modern amenities, two in traditional bamboo houses.
They provide traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner and are best arranged through local guides (see below). Rooms from $11 a night, with food.
Government Craft Emporium
Route 229, Hapoli
In a compound of colonial-style bungalows just outside central Hapoli on the main road leading to Old Ziro. Monday-Friday, 9.30am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 4pm.
Northeast Holiday Tour & Travels
Christopher (Tajo) Michi offers customised guided trips for foreign travellers throughout Arunachal and the north-east.
Tours including transport, hotel accommodation, food, guide and travel permits from $150 per night for two. E-mail:
Brahmaputra Tours
Guide Koj Mama offers itineraries covering various regions of Arunachal Pradesh and the surrounding north-eastern states. As president of the Arunachal Pradesh Birding Club, he is a particularly good choice if you’re interested in the region’s unique flora and fauna.
Tours including transport, hotel accommodation, food, guide and travel permits from $180 per night for two.
29 November 2013

India 'ready to let China keep Aksai Chin' if neighbour country drops claim to Arunachal Pradesh

By Saurabh Shukla

The boundary talks are currently in the second leg of a three-stage process. The first stage was to establish guiding principles, and the second to reach a consensus on a framework for the boundary
The boundary talks are currently in the second leg of a three-stage process. The first stage was to establish guiding principles, and the second to reach a consensus on a framework for the boundary
The bhai-bhai days may soon be reborn in bye-bye avatar along the India-China border.

Foreign ministry documents on border negotiations accessed by Mail Today reveal that India has signalled its readiness to let its Aksai Chin region remain in Chinese hands in exchange for recognition of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory.
In other words, India is willing to give up its claims to Aksai Chin if China does the same for Arunachal.

China continues to push for territorial concessions in Arunachal Pradesh, which it has been eyeing for a long time, before moving forward on the long-standing border issue between the two countries.

Publicly, India has been holding to its stated position that there can't be any territorial concessions. But behind the closed doors of the negotiating room, India has told China that it "may not be averse to status quo position".

Simply put, it means that for China to give up its claim on the 90,000 sq km inside Arunachal, including Tawang, India could agree to give up 38,000 km sq of Jammu and Kashmir. That piece of land, called Aksai Chin in the Ladakh sector, has been in dispute since Pakistan annexed it and then illegally handed 5,180 sq km over to China in 1963.

Bargaining point

This contentious formula is not the stated position of New Delhi, but it is being considered a bargaining point, officials privy to the discussions have told Mail Today.

Any such proposal can only be implemented if a new government in New Delhi has enormous political will, because there is an unanimous resolution of the Indian Parliament of 1962 that India will ensure that it gets back all territory illegally occupied by China.

Several documents based on the notes made by Indian officials suggest that even after 16 rounds of boundary negotiations, the talks are effectively deadlocked. China insists it needs substantial concessions on Arunachal Pradesh and the entire disputed Eastern sector before a framework or a formula to resolve disputes in all sectors can be agreed to.

The boundary talks are currently in the second leg of a three-stage process. Both sides signed an agreement on political parameters in 2005, and are now negotiating a framework to resolve disputes in all sectors.

First stage

The first stage was to establish guiding principles, the second included evolving a consensus on a framework for the boundary, and the last step comprised carrying out its delineation and demarcation. This final stage involves delineating the border in maps and on the ground.

The 16th round of boundary negotiations earlier this year between National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Chinese Special Interlocutor Yang Jeichi, a former Chinese foreign minister, also ended on a disappointing note, with India contesting the Chinese assertion that the boundary was never demarcated.
Menon has been a tough negotiator, responding strongly to Chinese suggestions of concessions and rejecting its maximalist approach.

The Indian side also says that both sides should, in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments to their respective positions on the boundary question so as to arrive at a package settlement.

The Big Deal

A consensus is building where India and China may agree to territorial concessions. It means that for China to give up its claim on the 90,000 sq km inside Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang, India could agree to give up 38,000 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir.

That piece of land, called Aksai Chin in the Ladakh sector, has been in dispute since Pakistan annexed it and then illegally handed 5,180 sqkm over to China in 1963.

Sticking points

President To Address Special Session of Arunachal Pradesh Assembly

President Pranab Mukherjee will address the Arunachal Pradesh assembly on Friday during his maiden two-day visit to the state. File photo: Rajeev Bhatt
President Pranab Mukherjee will address the Arunachal Pradesh assembly on Friday during his maiden two-day visit to the state. File photo: Rajeev Bhatt

President Pranab Mukherjee will address the Arunachal Pradesh assembly on Friday during his maiden two-day visit to the state

President Pranab Mukherjee will address a special session of the Arunachal Pradesh assembly on Friday during his maiden two-day visit to the state, official sources said.
On Saturday, Mr. Mukherjee will deliver the Convocation Address at the 12th Convocation of the Rajiv Gandhi University at Rono Hills, Doimukh, the sources said.
The convocation would confer bachelors, masters, diploma, M. Phil and PhD degree to qualified candidates for the 2011-2012 and 2012-13 academic sessions respectively.
“The President addressing the state assembly would be a historic event. Make it a memorable occasion for the state,” Chief Minister Nabam Tuki told Deputy Speaker Jomde Kena and other officials of the Assembly Secretariat.
19 November 2013

BJP Alleges Corruption in Arunachal Power Project BJP in Arunachal Pradesh has accused a Congress MLA of resorting to corruption while executing a power project in remote Anjaw district bordering China.

The party in a statement today alleged that Congress MLA Karikho Kri has misused public money and misled the state government along with AICC secretary in charge of Arunachal Pradesh Sanjay Bapna about the actual status of the Hatipani hydel project in the district.

The 2x50 kilowatt project was inaugurated on January 2 by Rajya Sabha member Mukut Mithi.

"Surprisingly, as per the list of existing hydel stations under department of hydro power development (DHPD), the project had been commissioned in 2009," Anjaw district BJP president Banim Kri claimed.

He said he visited the site on November 10 and found that equipments like turbines, penstock, etc were lying neglected.

During an interaction with the villagers of Goiliang, he was informed that a portable generator had been used to supply electricity to the entire circle headquarters on the day of the inauguration.

"Right from the very next day, there was no electricity in the area and the same is true to this day," the BJP leader said and demanded a CBI inquiry to unearth the exact magnitude and extent of corruption.
04 November 2013

When Tashi Goes Home

By Yolande D'Mello

When a film student from Arunachal Pradesh decided to make a film about home, his village volunteered to be the cast and crew. Yolande D'Mello reports.

When 33-year-old filmmaker Sange Dorjee began work on his first film, he had his entire family, including his wife and in-laws, pitching in. “We had a little money that my dad contributed, so we tried to cut costs. I had members of my family playing the roles of drivers, cooks, cleaners, etc,” says Dorjee who screened Crossing Bridges, his first feature film at the Mumbai Film Festival.

The 100-minute drama about Tashi, a protagonist who mirrors the director’s emotions, was shot in his native village of Shertukpen in Arunachal Pradesh and aims to immortalise the rich culture of the community that is eroding with time. “Young people leave the village for education or employment and then become infrequent visitors in their own home,” says Dorjee.

Not much has changed in Shertukpen. The main occupation is agriculture and in the last three years, natives have taken to growing cash crops like tomatoes. Two years ago, the first mobile network tower was set up in Shertukpen, five years ago the village got electricity (it lasts for 4-5 hours a day) and in the last seven years, three schools have been built in the two villages that house the tribe with a population of 3,000. 

“I’m fluent in my mother tongue,” admits Dorjee, who studied in Itanagar and Delhi and then graduated from Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute in Kolkata.

The dialect of Shertukpen does not have a written script. Stories and songs must be passed on orally. “But when I sat down with the village elders, I realised that they were starting to forget the songs and there were disagreements about what the songs meant,” explains Dorjee. Other aspects are already fading even in the homeland. These include dances that last the length of the day, prayers that invoke rainfall and shamans who are taught about medicine from spirits. The filmmaker wanted to capture this “on film because it is forever”.

To do so, Dorjee employed the help of the entire village, where he prepared and shot for four months. Members of the community were chosen to act, Dorjee provided the amateur actors with the situation and the actors wrote the dialogues.

The director’s next film will address social issues in the northeast. According to him, the region has enough issues to feed film scripts for several lifetimes. However with the current state of apathy towards issues in the region, it would be more than helpful to filmmakers like Dorjee if there was a dance to secure funding as well just like the rain dance.

The director

Crossing Bridges was shot in the hilly villages of Arunachal Pradesh using a Canon 5D. The film will be showcased at the upcoming International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in December.

This is the director’s first film since he graduated from Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute in Kolkata.

Sange Dorjee is also working on preparing a database of songs and folklore by recording them on film. He has identified and translated 20 such sogns and 40 stories so far.
24 October 2013

After-Sunset Alert For Travellers in Arunachal

Move triggered by kidnappings, deteriorating law and order in Bhalukpong


Tezpur, Oct 24 : A signboard put up today at Bhalukpong inner-line permit checkgate in Arunachal Pradesh warns: People are advised to avoid travel in the area after sunset.

The state police warning to commuters against travelling inside the frontier state from Bhalukpong ILP checkpost after sunset follows the abduction of a senior NHPC official from near the area last month.

Officer-in-charge of Bhalukpong police station, Mipak Riba, told The Telegraph over phone, “We are taking all kinds of preventive security measures. The warning to commuters is part of this measure.”

Arunachal Pradesh director-general of police K.K. Maheswari said the steps were necessitated given the threats posed by militants from the Bodo community.

The Songbijit faction of NDFB had kidnapped Anil Agarwal, a general manager of the 600MW National Hydroelectric Power Corporation’s Tawang Chu-I project, from 12 Mile under Charduar police station in Assam’s Sonitpur district on September 21. The site is 6km from Bhalukpong.

In 2010, NDFB militants had abducted Indian Forest Service official of the Maharashtra cadre V.S. Bardekar, who is also a butterfly expert, from Boimara, 120km from Bhalukpong police station. He was released after three months of negotiations.

“But it will be wrong to say that only the kidnapping case forced us to take this step. There have been law and order issues in the area from before,” Maheswari added.

Riba said some businessmen in Bhalukpong have been receiving extortions calls from militant groups and had been advised not to take calls from unknown numbers.

Apart from general commuters, for whom the stretch on National Highway 229 is the only one to either enter or leave the western part of the frontier state, the move is set to impact tourists travelling to Tawang, which houses Asia’s second largest monastery, and is one of the most sought-after destinations on the country’s tourism map.

According to official reports, Tawang had received 21,325 domestic and 273 foreign tourists in 2012. But this year, 1,861 domestic and 152 foreign tourists visited the district in May while 698 domestic and 63 foreign tourists visited it in June.

Jiban Das from Tezpur, who drives a tourist taxi, said, “The move will greatly affect us. It takes 15 hours to reach Tezpur from Tawang. We cannot reach before sunset. It will be a big loss in manhours and money. Travelling to and from Bhalukpong will become very expensive.”

Mausam Pratim Dutta, a businessman, said, “I am shocked. What will happen to people if they have medical emergencies? Does this mean the government is not equipped to provide security? The move will only embolden militants.”

Rituraj Gayan, a contractor who is a regular commuter on the Charduar-Bhalukpong road, said he would have to rework his schedule. “I will have to try to complete my work before 4pm.”

Bhalukpong in West Kameng district is about 228km from the Arunachal Pradesh capital, Itanagar, 283km from Tawang and 240km from the Assam capital, Guwahati.

The Bhalukpong circle area has a population of around 4,000 on the Arunachal side, mostly indigenous people who are dependent on agriculture. More than 400 vehicles, big and small, excluding army and police vehicles, ply on this stretch of the national highway from Bhalukpong to various locations to and from Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Pradesh IGP Satyendra Garg told The Telegraph from Itanagar that the warning was a precautionary measure and not a ban on travelling after sunset. “The presence of police force is less in the areas so it is not exactly safe to travel on the stretch after sunset. However, we will not stop anybody who wants to travel after sunset. The precautionary measure will continue till the law and order situation improves in the area.”

He also said they were in constant touch with their Assam counterparts over the kidnapping case and were doing whatever was required for Agarwal’s release.

Sonitpur superintendent of police Arabinda Kalita, however, said, “We have not taken this type of measure as tourists are regular travellers on this stretch.”

Official sources said work on alternative roads, which would allow commuters in Arunachal Pradesh to avoid Bhalukpong, was in full swing and were expected to be complete by December this year.
04 October 2013

Miss Universe Olivia Frances Culpo To Visit Arunachal


Guwahati, Oct 4 : Arunachal Pradesh is rolling out the red carpet for reigning Miss Universe Olivia Frances Culpo to promote its untapped tourism potential.

Culpo, an American beauty pageant title holder who won the Miss USA 2012 and Miss Universe 2012 pageant, will reach Itanagar tomorrow to participate in the curtain-raiser to the three-day International Tourism Mart (ITM) from October 18 at Tawang and the four-day Tawang Festival from October 20.
“The reigning Miss Universe completely fits the bill. Since she was visiting India, we requested her to visit our beautiful state and promote its tourism potential. We want people to know that there is a beautiful place called Arunachal Pradesh in the world. We are aggressively promoting our state as a tourist destination,” the state’s tourism secretary Sonam Chombay said.
Sources indicated that Culpo, dressed in traditional Arunachali attire, will read out a message to the people of Arunachal Pradesh and outside about the state’s tourism potential at the Indira Gandhi Park in Itanagar. She will also participate in a fashion show displaying rich Arunachali textiles.
The Nabam Tuki-led government’s decision to invite Culpo, the sources said, has been dictated by the necessity to make “just the right kind and right amount of buzz” ahead of the ITM and Tawang festival.
Last year, nearly 2.5 lakh domestic and 5,000 foreign tourists visited Arunachal Pradesh. Besides hydel power, the underdeveloped state is banking on tourism for deliverance. The ITM is an initiative of the Union ministry of tourism to attract domestic and international tourists to the Northeast and West Bengal by bringing travel writers, hoteliers, tour operators and tourism officials and foreign delegates under one roof.
The Tawang ITM has received a response as encouraging as the first one held in Guwahati in January. “We are expecting around 150 delegates from 26 countries,” Chombay said.
Culpo will also visit Guwahati on October 5 to participate in a Save the Girl Child campaign, of which NF Railway Women’s Welfare Organisation is a part.
24 September 2013

Changing the landscape of Arunachal with tea

Basamlu Krisikro - the

By Prasanta Mazumdar

Wakro (Arunachal Pradesh), Sep 24 :  Basamlu Krisikro - the "Tea Lady" of Arunachal Pradesh. Songelum, 38, spent all his life cultivating opium until he met Basamlu Krisikro – the “Tea Lady” of Arunachal Pradesh.Today, he is one among many inspired by her to replace their opium fields with small-scale tea plantations in the state’s Lohit district, where tribal Mishmis are in majority. Opium fetches four times the money for a fraction of the labour, but Songelum says he has no regrets about walking the path of tea.

In a place where 99 families in every 100 households grow opium to eke out a living, he says nobody knows better than Basamlu about how challenging it is to motivate people to take up an alternative source of income. “When you go and tell them about an alternative means of income, they suspect that you have come to destroy their livelihood,” Songelum said.

A post-graduate from the Delhi University, Basamlu, 39, was working on orange plantation till an oncologist prescribed a daily dose of organic green tea for her cancer-struck mother Gutitun, whose illness has since been arrested. In order to avoid travelling miles often to get the chemical-free beverage from Assam’s Dibrugarh town, she was struck by the idea of growing it in her backyard. At that time, the production of oranges had plummeted drastically.

“As green tea is sustainable, I thought of promoting it among locals,” she said. From 2009 to 2012, Basamlu grew organic tea on a piece of land measuring 45 bighas. The tea is processed in her own factory and sold to both local and international buyers .

Last year, she got a produce of 1,800kg.

“Being a cash crop, opium gives you easy money. People get drawn to this very easily as the profit is tens times of what you invest. So, it was very challenging for me to motivate people about growing tea,” Basamlu says.

Today, she has been able to inspire at least a dozen opium farmers to carry out tea plantation.

Not only does she supply tea plants to them on a deferred payment basis, but she also buys their organic harvest.

Songelum says opium is like an ATM. “No matter where you are and what the time is, you will get buyers at the drop of a hat,” he says. And one needs to work hard for only three to four months from December to March to make a ‘decent’ living for rest of the year, he said. “12 grams of opium will fetch you Rs650. So, if you have a land measuring one hectare, you need just Rs6,000-Rs7,000 to get a produce of six to seven kgs a year.” The Lohit, Anjaw, Tirap and Changlang districts, bordering China, are notorious for poppy cultivation. Wakro alone has around 12,000 to 13,000 opium cultivators.

Locals say the buyers are all locals who smuggle the narcotic into the south-east Asian countries through the ‘Golden Triangle’.

Straddling around 367,000 square miles that overlaps the mountains of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, the Golden Triangle is a major opium-producing area of Asia. Doctors say opium addiction is very common among opium growers.

According to Basamlu, anti-drug agencies come to Wakro only to destroy crops and not to understand the root cause of the problem.

“What is imperative is awareness at all levels. The government could set up de-addiction camps and carry out massive awareness campaigns to curb the menace,” Songelum said..“Opium has ruined our society. In growing opium, people get addicted to it.

Economic backwardness is the main reason why they go for opium cultivation. Besides, people’s basic requirements have also increased. They want their children to attend private schools, possess latest household appliances, get access to  better healthcare services etc. So, unless you give them an alternative, they will go on cultivating opium,” Basamlu points out.
29 August 2013

14 Girls Raped by Hostel Warden

 Violent Protest in Arunachal

Itanagar, Aug 29 : A shocking case of rape of 14 minor girls allegedly by the hostel warden of a private school in Likabali in West Siang district has come to light after a few students reported the matter to police.

The rape of the girls in the age group of four to 13 for over three years has triggered protests with local residents, students and members from the civil society hitting the streets last evening to protest against the crime.

They also gheraoed the Likabali Police Station demanding capital punishment for the culprits. The incident came to light when a few students of the school yesterday managed to report the crime to the Likabali Police Station, police said here today.

Vipin Wisvan, a non-Arunachalee teacher in the school, who also serves as the warden of the hostel, was arrested yesterday in this connection. The school principal and two other staff were also detained for interrogation. A case had been registered at the Likabali Police Station and an investigation was on, the police said.

According to police, the molestation and rape of students were going on at the school for the last three years. After committing the offence, the accused had threatened the girls with dire consequences if they disclosed his act to the parents.

It was alleged that when the matter was brought to the knowledge of the school principal by the students yesterday, the principal tried to hush up the matter. Then a few students mustered courage to scale the boundary wall and reported the matter at the police station.

The Arunachal Law Students Union, Galo Students’ Union, All Galo Students Union condemned the incident and appealed to the authorities not to grant bail to the culprits. Other organisations too demanded harsh punishment to the offenders.

Arunachal To Host Bird Festival

By Pullock Dutta

A bird at Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary.

Jorhat, Aug 29 : Arunachal Pradesh will host its first bird festival in the first week of February next year at Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary in West Kameng district.

The sanctuary, whose lowest point is 500 metres and the highest over 3,500 meters, has a mind-boggling variety of birds and the festival aims to showcase this diversity.

It is at Eaglenest, in the Eastern Himalayas, that a new species of bird, Bugun Liocichla, was discovered in 2006. Only seven pairs of the species were found in the sanctuary. Bugun Liocichla is a close relative of another rare Liocichla species, found only in a few mountains of central China. Liocichla are members of the bird family, babblers.

A bird race for birdwatchers will also be held during the festival. Prizes will be awarded to those with the highest tally of birds and the most special birds sighted.

“We are expecting a large number of tourists, including foreigners, during the festival,” divisional forest officer, Shergaon forest division, Rupa, Millo Tasser, told The Telegraph today.

Eaglenest, which covers an area of 217 square km, derives its name from the Red Eagle Division of the army, which was posted in the area in the 1950s. The sanctuary is home to at least 450 species of birds including babblers, herons, black storks, ducks, hawks, eagles, kites, vultures, falcons, pheasants, jungle fowl, quails, woodpeckers, warblers and cormorants.

The sanctuary has the distinction of having three tragopan species. It is also home to at least 165 species of butterflies and 15 species of mammals, including the endangered red panda, Royal Bengal tiger, Asiatic black bear and capped langur.

Tasser said the main aim of the festival was to raise awareness about Eaglenest.

“Although a large number of tourists visit Eaglenest every year, the sanctuary has not yet received the required attention. We hope the festival will help showcase its diversity of birds at the international forum,” Tasser said.

The festival will be held jointly by the tourism and the forest department, with co-operation from Bugun Welfare Society, an NGO involved in eco-tourism at Eaglenest.

Its members are from the Bugun community, who live on the fringes of the sanctuary.

Indi Glow, chairman of the society said a photography competition with entries of bird pictures taken at Eaglenest and painting and essay competitions among school children have also been planned during the festival.

“We are expecting the bird festival to become an annual feature in Eaglenest’s calendar,” Glow said.
01 August 2013

Cabinet Committee on Investment clears 2 Arunachal Pradesh hydro power projects

The Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) is believed to have approved setting up two hydro power projects in Arunachal Pradesh.The Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) is believed to have approved setting up two hydro power projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
New Delhi, Aug 1 : The Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) is believed to have approved setting up two hydro power projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

"Defence and Home Ministries have also given their consent for the construction of two hydel power plants in Arunachal Pradesh," a source close to the development told PTI, adding that the CCI has given approval to the project.

CCI is also believed to have cleared three Railway projects.

Hydro power contributes 18.6 per cent at 39,416 MW to the overall installed generation capacity of 2,11,766 MW.

As per reports, Arunachal Pradesh has the highest potential for hydropower generation in the country at over 50,000 MW.

NHPC is constructing hydro power projects of over 4,000 MW which includes 2000 MW Subansiri project at the Assam-Arunchal Pradesh border.

The company is facing stiff opposition from locals over the construction of the project. Centre has set up a committee to look into the matter and come up with a solution.

The government has also denied clearance to some other hydro power projects in the North-eastern region for reasons including the disaster in Uttarakhand.

NHPC had signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) in 2007 with the state for investing Rs 27,000 crore for setting up mega hydro projects by the end of the 12th plan period (2012-17).
23 July 2013

Arunachal Pradesh governor calls for better chopper service

Itanagar, Jul 23 : Arunachal Pradesh Governor Lt Gen (Retd) Nirbhay Sharma has asked the Centre for introduction of more helicopter service in the land-locked state to ease out communication bottle necks.
Sharma during a meeting with Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh in New Delhi recently made this plea and discussed the overall civil aviation scenario and related projects coming up in different parts of the state, official sources informed in Itanagar today.
Wanting better helicopter service. Reuters
Wanting better helicopter service. Reuters
The governor asked Singh to expedite aviation projects in the state and restoration of Lilabari Airport. Sharma said that good air service from fully developed airport at Lilabari must be made operational on highest priority.
Calling for ensuring air connectivity to the state, Sharma said that due to its vastness and tough geographical terrain, Arunachal was largely dependent on helicopters, air services for connectivity. He requested for placing two helicopters at the disposal of the state government – one for
regular passenger service and the other for ration sorties.
On the aviation projects in the state, the governor said that the work progress of NEC funded Tezu Airport is slow.
“The Airport Authority of India (AAI) must be asked to speed up the work. Timely completion of this project will go a long way in improving the connectivity in Arunachal Pradesh,” sources added quoting the governor.
He also called for expediting works related to advance landing grounds (ALGs) and Greenfield Airport, sources added.
25 June 2013

Days And Nights in The Forest

By Ramki Sreenivasan
Shadows play in a dense nook. Photo: Ramki Sreenivasan

Shadows play in a dense nook. Photo: Ramki Sreenivasan

A hornbill makes a point from its perch. Photo: Ramki Sreenivasan
A hornbill makes a point from its perch. Photo: Ramki Sreenivasan

As giant trees come crashing down, the author discovers a birding paradise in Arunachal Pradesh.

Cerebral malaria, leeches, poisonous snakes, running out of food, contaminated water, exhaustion from tough climbs were the known hazards when we planned an expedition to the jungles of Namdapha in the extreme Northeast of India. However, the most dangerous, which I was to experience at very close quarters, was not mentioned in any literature, trip report or jungle tale.
Falling trees — giant dead rainforest trees, struck by lightning, being knocked down with the onset of tropical thunderstorms. They would destroy anything in their path as they came crashing down to the jungle floor.
For the first time in our trip (we were already four days into it), I noticed our guides Chakma and Singpho were anxious. Yashi, their leader, realised that the sky darkened and suddenly started running. After catching up with him and the rest of our guides, we were told to watch out for falling trees. At that instant, without warning, we heard a loud crack and a massive tree snapped at about a third of its height and crashed to the ground. We witnessed three such crashes as we ran that afternoon in the pouring rain. Miraculously none fell in our direction.
We were in the heart of Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh. Namdapha’s altitude ranges from a mere 200m in the plains to a lofty 4,570m (Daphabum peak) in the easternmost tip of the Himalayas, providing an impressive altitudinal range. This coupled with its massive size —about 2000 — makes this reserve one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world. It is probably the only place in the world that has the tiger, leopard, clouded leopard and the snow leopard. Namdapha is also a birding paradise with more than 400 species, some found only in this part of India.
Some time back, a good friend and ace Mumbai-based birder Shashank Dalvi and I made a week-long birding expedition to Namdapha. Our goal was to try and photograph several of Namdapha’s avian specialities, most of them accomplished skulkers. The trip was organised by the enterprising Miao-based, Phuphla Singpho who assembled a motley and enterprising crew of cooks, guides and helpers to assist us. We walked during day and camped at night. From Deban to Haldibari to Hornbill to Bulbulia to Rani Jheel to Raja Jheel to Firmbase and back. Easy to moderate walks and not more than 10-12 km a day, but always through dense jungle along the northern banks of the beautiful Dihing river. Our first evening was spent at the picturesque forest inspection bungalow at Deban on the banks of the formidable Noa-Dihing River, our trailhead. This was also the last night under a proper roof as we spent the rest of our week-long trip in tents. The following morning, at daybreak, we crossed the great river and entered Namdapha. The tropical forest is dense and a lot of birding happens, quite literally, by “ear”. Soon, by sound, we were singling out Fulvettas, Yuhinas and Wren-babblers. The reserve has several microhabitats and each supports its own wildlife specialities. River banks like Noa-Dihing and Namdapha are great places to see Gibbons (India’s only ape), Flying squirrels, Ibisbills and the endangered White-bellied herons.
Haldibari and Hornbill (overnight camping locations for days 2 and 3) are set in the midst of tall evergreen forests and are phenomenal for hornbills, falconets and other birds. Rani Jheel is a natural bheel or forest lake where one can occasionally find the endangered White-winged wood duck. The stretch from Raja Jheel to Firmbase descends steeply through fabulous bamboo jungle and supports specialities like Hodgson’s Frogmouth, White-hooded and Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Grey-headed and Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, etc. Firmbase, on the banks of the Namdapha is a fabulous open riverine habitat with giant forests on both sides offering opportunities to spot deer, wild dog and water birds.
Namdapha has more than its fair share of troubles that require fairly urgent attention. In spite of its remoteness, Namdapha suffers from the classic tropical rainforest problem or the “empty forest syndrome”. Thanks to unsustainable hunting and poaching by local tribes, tropical forest species have been decimated, though the forest seems dense. In addition, encroachments in the form of full-fledged tribal settlements in several areas have caused serious habitat degradation. Forest clearings have been converted to paddy fields. Because of its massive area and a large portion of it still being densely forested, Namdapha can regain its original glory, but it needs serious political will as well as committed enforcement by the forest department.
Nearest airport: Mohanbari (Dibrugarh), Assam (160 km)
Nearest railway station: Tinsukia, Assam
By road: Dibrugarh – Tinsukia – Digboi - Margherita – Ledo – Jagun – Namchik – Kharsang – Miao (about six hours)