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Invasive grass species pose threat to local biodiversity in Kashmir: New Study

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Nov 22: Invasive species of grass with high silicon content is posing a grave threat to the biodiversity including medicinal plants in Kashmir, reveals a new study.

Entitled “Silicon Supplementation of Rescuegrass Reduces Herbivory”, the 2019 research was conducted by Showkat Hamid Mir, Professor Irfan Rashid, Professor Barkat Hussain, Professor Zafar A. Reshi, Rezwana Assad and Irshad A. Sofi of Department of Botany, University of Kashmir.

“The invasive species of grass has more silicon content which restricts the native herbivore, grasshopper, from consuming it. This species of grass has a tendency to spread far and wide in local biodiversity. Thus, posing threat to the native flora of the Kashmir,” reveals the study.

 

The study depicts that invasive species (botanical name B. catharticus) is a densely tufted, robust annual or short lived perennial, native to South America recently reported as an alien introduction to the flora of Kashmir Himalaya, with the potential to spread along the length and breadth of this biodiversity hotspot.

Showkat Hamid Mir, one of the authors of the research said: “The invasive species establish itself in foreign lands and tries to accumulate more nutrients from the soil and later dominates the native flora of that place.”

He said that B. catharticus accumulates more silicon content from the soil due to which phytolith (Silicon stone) develops in its leaves. “The native grasshopper that is a natural check on it could not consume the grass due to the presence of phytoliths in its leaves which helps invasive grass species to spread and poses threat to the medicinal as well as other native plants,” Mir noted.

Professor, Irfan Rashid, said this is not the only invasive species found in Kashmir that is posing threat to the native flora of Kashmir.

“We have two major management strategies. One strategy is ‘Quarantine check’ which directs not to allow any invasive species to enter into your periphery and for that you keep check spots at airport or at borders. Second strategy, ‘early detection and rapid response’ is that once you detect presence of any invasive species in your periphery, you need to manage it from spreading,” Rashid informed.

Professor Zafar Reshi, Dean Research, said this is the well-established fact that invasive species globally are the second most potent threat to local biodiversity.

“There is large number of alien species present in Kashmir and some of them are invasive. They grow in every eco-system. You will find them in forest, grasslands, water bodies and they have duplicating influence on both structure as well as function of our ecosystem,” Reshi said.  

He suggested that it is a high time for government to make a proper strategy for management of invasive species so that it cannot ruin our local biodiversity.


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Rs 2,379 cr Z-Morh Tunnel project awarded to APCO Amarnathji Tunnelway

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Jan 17:  The government on Friday awarded the Jammu and Kashmir”s crucial Z-Morh Tunnel project, languishing for long after it was abandoned, to APCO Amarnathji Tunnelway, which will be built at a cost of Rs 2,379 crore, a senior official said on Friday.

The pact between the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) and APCO Amarnathji Tunnelway was signed in presence of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways V K Singh.

The Z-Morh Tunnel along with the Zojila tunnel are designed to provide all-weather road connectivity to Jammu and Kashmir parts which remain closed during the winters due to heavy snowfall. The project is likely to be completed by 2023.

 

The project was earlier allotted to Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS), but the contractor had abandoned it after IL&FS Group faced financial crisis. The work on it has begun in 2012.

“National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) has awarded the Rs 2,379 crore Z-Morh Tunnel to APCO Amarnathji Tunnelway Pvt Ltd,” NHIDCL Managing Director K K Pathak told PTI.

The Z-Morh Tunnel project was awarded on build-operate-transfer (annuity) basis with concession period of 20 years including 5 years of construction period to IL&FS but due to financial crisis of IL&FS group of companies, the concessionaire stopped all work w.e.f July 2018.

“This is an old and ongoing project. Earlier it was with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) then it came to the Ministry and finally to NHIDCL. We started the work when the IL&FS left the project and finally we retendered it and now the new bidder is on board. This is a sort of private partnership project and is an annuity based project,” he said.

Pathak said NHIDCL will give an annuity of Rs 297 crore to the contractor every six months and the concessionaire is mandated to complete the project in 3.5 years.

“The tunnel is in a very strategic, important place and it has got a lot of bearing in the forthcoming Zojilla tunnel, which is also being taken by the NHIDCL. Together, these two tunnels — the Z-Morh and Zozilla — will help in all-weather connectivity in that area,” he said.

About the partially constructed structure, he said NHIDCL will ensure that it is not damaged and a full-fledged work on the project will start after the snow melts in March.

“By the time the concessionaire will be fully mobilised. Today, the agreement has been signed and the developer has to achieve the financial closure. Once that is achieved we will start the work,” he said and added that both the tunnels are contiguous to each other.

“The concessionaire is supposed to complete it by 2023. The developer has to achieve the financial closure within next month,” he said adding that the cost and the risk associated with the project is totally borne by the concessionaire.

Z-Morh Tunnel would provide all-weather road connectivity to Sonamarg tourist spot in Jammu and Kashmir which mostly remains closed during the winters due to heavy snowfall in Gagenger area.

Bids for the project were re-invited on June 24, 2019 with a TPC of Rs 2,378.76 crore on BOT – build operate transfer – (Annuity) basis, he said.

The project iincludes construction, operation and maintenance of the tunnel including approaches on NH-1 at Srinagar-Sonmarg-Gumri Road from 61 km to 89.30 km on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) Annuity basis.

The developer has been awarded maintenance Period of 15 years from the completion date.

The earlier contract is being foreclosed in terms of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways ”Guidelines Principles for Resolution of Stuck National Highway Projects”.

Earlier, the tunnel project was awarded on BOT (annuity) basis with concession period of 20 years including 5 years of construction period to IL&FS group.

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Centre’s `massive outreach’ programme to begin from Jan 18

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jan 16: Five months after the abrogation of Article 370, Narendra Modi-led government has embarked on an outreach programme to make people aware about the “positive” impacts of the revocation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Source said at least 36 ministers are scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir for a week from January 18. They are schedule to address people at 59 places including 51 in Jammu and eight in Kashmir. 

Among the five central ministers who will be addressing people in Kashmir are Ravi Shankar Prasad, G Kishan Reddy, Shripad Naik, Niranjan Jyoti and Ramesh Pokhriyal.

 

“G Kishan Reddy will address people in Ganderbal town on January 22 and Manigam on January 23. Ravi Shankar Prasad will address people in Baramulla on January 24. Niranjan Jyoti, Ramesh Pokhriyal and Shripad Naik will address gatherings at SKICC Srinagar,” sources said.

Sources said Prakash Javadekar may also address rallies in Kashmir.  Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, V K Singh, Anurag Thakur, R K Singh and Giriraj Singh are among union ministers who would address rallies in Jammu.

However, the schedule for the visit will be finalised at a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers on Friday.

Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent background material about developmental activities to the ministers.

A top official said all the preparations are being made for the visit. “Police and central forces have been directed to ensure adequate security arrangements,” he said.

The official said ministers however won’t visit restive south Kashmir. “They will address at those places which are relatively peaceful,” the official said.

A BJP leader said the visit is part of Centre’s “massive outreach programme” to interact directly with the people of J&K. “BJP workers and leaders would also attend these rallies. Ministers will try to make people aware about positive impact of Article 370 abrogation,” he said.

On January 14, Minister for Home Affairs wrote a letter to J&K Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam informing him about the contours of the visit. “Union Minister Amit Shah has desired that all members of the union council of ministers shall pay a visit to the Union Territory with the objective of disseminating information about the importance of the government policies with regard to overall development of J&K and its people along with the steps taken by the Government of India in this direction particularly in the last five month,” reads the letter.

The delegation will interact with the people during the visit to different districts and educate the people under various themes including rapid development after President’s Rule from June 2018 and now after re-organization in August, 100 percent coverage of 55 beneficiary oriented schemes to all residents of J&K, rapid infrastructure development including implementation of PMDP, flagship schemes and iconic projects, Good governance and rule of law with equality of opportunity to all, rapid industrial growth with employment and rapid economic growth in all sectors with focus on incomes.

Under the public outreach programme, the Union Ministers will visit different districts in both the divisions of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, with the objective of disseminating information about the importance of the Centre’s policies for the overall development of the Union Territory and its people along with the steps taken by the government particularly in the past five months after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions and bifurcation of erstwhile state.

If everything is normal, why send 36 ‘propagandists’ to Kashmir: Sibal

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, Jan 16: The Congress on Thursday slammed the government over its decision to send 36 Union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir and said if everything was “normal” there, what was the need to send “propagandists”.

A group of Union ministers will visit Jammu and Kashmir later this month to spread awareness about the positive impact of abrogation of Article 370 provisions and the development measures taken by th government for the region.

The schedule for the visit of the ministers to the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be finalised at a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers on Friday.

“Amit Shah says all is normal in Kashmir. If so, why send 36 propagandists to Kashmir? Why not allow non-propagandists to go and understand the situation prevailing there?” tweeted senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

Thirty-six Union ministers will visit different districts in both the divisions of the Union Territory starting from January 18 to January 24 and the Home Ministry is coordinating it.

“36 Ministers running around J&K in 6 days is a sign of Panic not normalcy. Abrogating Article 370 was a blunder & no quick fixes will work Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again,” tweeted Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.

This will be the second round of visit by the Union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state on August 5.

Earlier this month, in one of the meetings of the council of ministers, a presentation was also been made on the development initiatives taken by the Centre following the imposition of the governor rule in the region.

Release detained leaders if Kashmir situation normal: Cong

Agencies

New Delhi, Jan 16:The Congress on Thursday slammed the Modi government’s plan to take 36 Union ministers to Jammu & Kashmir, saying if it believes that everything is normal in Kashmir then itshould release the detained Kashmiri leaders first.

Speaking to IANS, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said, “Either Modi government trusts the European MPs, who believe in going on tours and that was the reason why they were brought to Kashmir.”

He said that the government was taking its 36 ministers to Kashmir to mislead the people about the situation in the newly-created Union Territory. Slamming the government for putting the opposition leaders under house arrest, Shergill said, “They have made Kashmir as a zoo, where the opposition leaders have been put under house arrest. And now they are taking their leaders to visit the zoo.”

The Modi government on August 5 abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution from Jammu & Kashmir that gave special status to the erstwhile state and bifurcated the state into two Union territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

Following the abrogation of Article 370, the government suspended internet and mobile services in Kashmir and also put several opposition leaders including three former Chief Ministers — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under house arrest.

Taunting the BJP government, the Congress leader said, “If the government wants to bring the situation in Kashmir to normal then they need to release the opposition leaders and pay damages to the people of Kashmir whose businesses have suffered in last five months.”

He also said that the government also needs to rework the image of the country after putting Kashmir under a communication blackout.

Slamming the BJP-led NDA government, Shergill said that the government is only “champion in headline management” and they are zero on the economic front and they have no focus on national security and Kashmir.

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Airfares go through roof: SXR –DEL @ Rs 26k, DEL-DXP @ Rs 11k

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jan 16:  Believe it or not, but it is true. Flying to Dubai is cheaper than traveling to Srinagar from -New Delhi.

Thanks to the National Highway closure, air fare has skyrocketed in Kashmir.  For the next three days, one way air fare from Srinagar to New Delhi ranges from Rs 11500 to 25300. It is over 200 per cent higher than the normal airfare of Rs 4000-5000. One way air fare from New Delhi to Dubai on Friday is Rs 10841.

An inter-state trip is equally costlier. The air fare between Jammu and Srinagar has increased by 500 per cent this week. An airfare from Srinagar to Jammu ranges between Rs 11500 to 15000. 

 

Even after hike in air fare, the flights operations from Srinagar airport has been hit due to slippery conditions. Around 14 flights got cancelled on Thursday due to the slippery condition of the runway.

“12 out of 26 flights operated today. The visibility was clear today but the runway was not cleared. After Air Force cleared the runway, the flight operations resumed,” said Santosh Dhoke, Director Airport Authority of India, Srinagar.

The hike in airfare and repeated cancellation of flights is causing huge inconveniences to the people. “My mother who suffers from Asthama needs to travel to New Delhi for monthly follow-ups. We have been reaching airport every morning and the flights are getting constantly cancelled,” said Sajad Ahmad, a resident of Soura.

On the other side, vehicular traffic remained disrupted on Srinagar- Jammu National Highway on Thursday. Only stranded vehicles were allowed at evening hours to cross the landslide prone areas.

“The highway was cleared today. Only few of the stranded vehicles were allowed to pass through the Digdol, Monkey Stand and Panthal towards Jammu. Subject to the weather and road conditions, only stranded vehicles will be allowed to move,” said an official at Traffic Control Room Ramban.

 As many as 5000 vehicles have remained stranded on the highway for the last four days.

Meteorological Department has forecasted scattered light rains and snow for next 24 hours in Kashmir regions. A MeT official said that 1.0mm rains were recorded in Qazigund on Thursday while Srinagar received rains which weren’t measurable. He said Batote and Badarwah in Jammu division recorded 2.8mm and 11.9mm rains respectively.

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