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India and Bangladesh to Construct a Bridge Over Khawthlangtuipui River

Bridge Khawthlangtuipui River

To ensure enhancement in trade and ease in the connectivity of the two neighboring countries; India and Bangladesh, the decision to construct a bridge over Mizoram’s Khawthlangtuipui River has been given a green signal.

Karnaphuli River
Karnaphuli River

With Bangladesh, India shares the largest international land boundary; 4096 km, most with any of its neighbors.

Ms Sheikh Hasina
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina

Rowshan Ara Khanam, an official from Bangladesh shared, “The proposed bridge would be an important linkage between India and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has taken a number of steps to make it a reality. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina has given the approval to construct the bridge and link roads.”

It has been suggested to construct the bridge nearest to the land customs station in Bangladesh. The effort aspires to strengthen ties between the working of both the countries; hassle-free road connectivity and smooth communications.

The meeting to roll out this decision was arranged at the Tlabung town, Mamit district in Mizoram which lies in close proximity to the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh.

World’s First Floating LNG Terminal to be Constructed in Bangladesh

Floating Terminal

The Moheshkhali Floating LNG project will be Bangladesh’s first LNG import terminal, located off Moheshkhali Island in the Bay of Bengal. The project’s purpose is to meet clean energy demands of the country by generating natural gas in enhanced capacities; by up to 20%.

US$ 179.5m has been secured by IFC (International Finance Corporation) and Excelerate (Excelerate Energy Bangladesh) to fund the project.

Excelerate’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Nick Bedford, believes, “Excelerate takes great pride in helping bring sustainable energy solutions to countries with high energy demand, and we expect this project to have a great impact on the wider Bangladeshi economy.”

On implementation, the project anticipates an increase in the natural gas supplies of the state-owned energy company – Petrobangla, by up to 3,000MW.

The construction of the terminal has been slated to begin in the later months of 2017 and shall be put to practice in the succeeding year of 2018. Excelerate shall be responsible for the project in its entirety; development, designing, construction, installation, finance, and operations. The Moheshkhali Floating LNG terminal is being regarded as the first fully integrated turnkey floating LNG terminal of the world.

Excelerate Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Rob Bryngelson remarked, “Excelerate is the only FSRU provider capable of delivering a comprehensive end-to-end floating LNG import solution and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Petrobangla in Bangladesh.

Post 15 years of providing its services, the project’s ownership shall be transferred from Excelerate to Petrobangla.

The structure of the terminal shall encompass Excelerate’s Floating Storage and Regasification Units (FSRU), port service vessels and subsea buoy system.

The development of the LNG terminal seeks to strengthen and support the power industry by tapping into diverse sources of natural gas reserves present in the global market. This may enable utilization of domestic natural gas reserves in a manner more efficient and sustainable and also aid in elevating economic growth levels through the creation of job opportunities and infrastructure in the region while shielding the Bangladeshi economy from the drastic impacts of climate change.

China to Bolster Bangladesh’s Development Projects

Bangladesh Map

To accelerate business and bilateral relations between China and Bangladesh, an Investment Forum highlighting the business climate of Bangladesh underscoring potential investment sectors, policy regulations, trade opportunities and expansion possibilities, will take place in the last quarter of August.

Sponsored by Bangladesh’s leading bank- The City Bank Limited and the Standard Chartered Bank, and organized by one of the most premier financial publications across the globe – Euromoney, the China-Bangladesh Investment Forum will be an attractive and a promising business crusade, bringing together institutional investors, portfolio managers, multilateral financiers , government officials, and global asset managers to explore potential business opportunities in Bangladesh and bolster the ChinaBangladesh trade relations as an outcome of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Bangladesh Mr. Abrar A. Anwar shares his view with regards to Bangladesh’s massive economic capacity, “There are a lot of investment opportunities coming out in Bangladesh, Asia and also around the globe. China is a major economy, so we believe that private sectors in China would be looking at opportunities outside China.”

Bangladesh plans to promote itself as an avid investment destination and welcome China’s investment interests while acknowledging China’s continued business cooperation with them.

An informative podium engaged with discussions pertaining to capital and financial markets, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), infrastructure and the like are anticipated. It has been highlighted that participation by Chinese private business companies will considerably push Bangladesh’s development strategy. However, to increase and ensure continued Chinese investments in Bangladesh, incentive generation and elimination of procedural bottlenecks have been insisted upon.

This forum is monumental in attracting investments from China, which is being credited as the world’s largest source of FDI. This economic conference also aspires to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries, fueling long-term business impact and bilateral relationship.

Bamboo Technology Park : Inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Assam in Guwahati

Mr Sarbananda Sonowal
Assam Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal

The North-East of India is considered a paradise abound with unique and exquisite natural resources. Recently, Bamboo Technology Park was instituted at Chaygaon in Assam with an investment of Rs. 62.28 crore.

Bamboo is an abundant and a highly valued natural resource found in the North-East of India, particularly in Assam. Its anti-erosional and renewable property makes it a multipurpose resource. Due to its varied usage, it is copiously cultivated in the homesteads, village gardens, and agricultural lands and even in the field boundaries.

While inaugurating the Bamboo Technological Park in the vicinity of Guwahati, Chief Minister of Assam, Mr. Sonowal stated, “There are hundreds of MSME’s that produces incense sticks and bamboo handicraft products. Two very large paper plants are in Assam that uses bamboo as the raw material.”

The park has been equipped with the modern Common Facility Centre for producing creative and innovative bamboo products. The facilities include vacuum pressure treatment plant, bamboo stick and resin making facility, to name a few.

The cumulative efforts of private entrepreneurs, the Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion helped in establishing the Bamboo Technology Park, with the view to ensure optimum utilization of bamboo at the commercial level.

North-East India Builds Energy Cooperation Mechanism with Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal

Free LPG Connections
Free LPG connections being distributed to the beneficiaries

On a majestic mission to build a smooth and seamless energy cooperation mechanism, massive pipelines connecting Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, shall be strategically laid out by India to put off the challenges caused by the treacherous terrains of the North-East of India.

The scope of the project is integrative and ambitious in nature as the aforementioned neighboring countries have united to commence the initial operations. This mechanism would facilitate convenience in transporting petroleum products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), diesel and other variants.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan envisioned the ‘North East Hydrocarbon vision 2030’ with the aim to augment the hydrocarbon production in the North-East of India, proposing an investment of Rs.1, 30,000 crores over 15 years. About 6, 900 km of pipeline shall be stretched across the regions of Sitwe (Myanmar), Chittagong (Bangladesh), North-East of India, and the Siliguri and Durgapur regions of West Bengal.

This geographical connectivity across regions is a strategic and a well-planned move to steer away from wastage, inflammation, and most crucially, benefit the masses by meeting their essential needs for clean cooking gas and fuel. Aligned to this goal, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme was introduced by the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi to aid the women beneficiaries populating the Below Poverty Line strata. The Free LPG connections being distributed to the beneficiaries scheme has managed to distribute LPG connection to about 2.7 crore beneficiaries, post its launch in May 2017.

Remarking on the foundation stone laying ceremony for an LPG bottling plant at the industrial park of Bodhjungnagar, Mr. Pradhan further shared, “The proposed bottling plant at Bodhjungnagar would be able to cater to the rising demand of cooking gas in Tripura. Existing Silchar (in southern Assam) bottling plant’s capacity would also be augmented by 60 metric ton per annum ensuring smooth supply of LPG in the Northeastern states.”

With the aspiration of adding 10 crores new LPG connections by 2019, in order to attain maximum coverage of the households of India, the energy mechanism has been put in place.

Japan to Aid North-East India’s Infrastructural Interests

PM Modi and Mr Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan and India – Mr. Shinzo Abe and Mr. Narendra Modi respectively

Japanese involvement in India’s keystone infrastructural projects has significantly contributed in supplementing India’s growth stories. Its efforts and interest remain relentless and persistent as it embarks upon developing and boosting infrastructural prospects in the North – East of India while leveraging on the North-eastern pool of resources and its proximity to the South-East Asian countries.

With India being weighed as the gateway to the South East region, and also actively interested in pursuing its Act East policy, Japan’s interest in providing its technical know-how, expertise and experience in the realm of connectivity based infrastructure: roads, railways, electricity, disaster management, forest resource management and so on, is loud and clear.

Against this backdrop, the Coordination Forum for Development of North – East has been set up by India and Japan to expedite infrastructural development in the North Eastern part of India, after the Ministry of Development of NorthEastern Region (DONER) recognizes the priority areas that require immediate attention and operations.

The India – Japan Cooperation Forum for Development of NorthEast included officials from external affairs, finance, road transport, power as important participants, along with Japan Embassy’s ambassador, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu and DONER Minister, Mr. Jitendra Singh, who inaugurated the forum.

The relationship between Japan and India has strategically gained significance and both the countries look forward to an engaging people-to-people and cultural exchange platform to seek, supplement and strengthen developmental opportunities while maintaining and building historic relations.

As per the International Community, Japan and India have the potential to be mutually-giving partners, with the surfeit of North-Eastern manpower available to boost Japan’s economy and Japan’s intrinsic and engaging interest in developing the NorthEastern part of India.

Mizoram Embarks on Solar Power Projects

Mizoram Solar Power

In the quest to provide sustainable power solutions and meet its 10.5 % renewable purchase obligation by 2021-22, the state of Mizoram has articulated and given a concrete shape to its Solar Power Policy, advocating 80MW worth solar projects in 2017.

With the ambitious plan of scaling investments in the solar sector, multiple incentives have been ensured, encouraging the development of solar projects, with special emphasis on the rooftop and ground-mounted placements.

Apart from focusing on decentralized and off-grid power projects; solar street and solar home lighting system, solar water pumping and solar power plants, Mizoram’s solar power policy’s range of incentives involve – Rs.115 per Watt for a microgrid of up to 10 kW, Rs. 99 per Watt for a mini-grid of 10 kW to 500 kW. An installation of 1 kilowatt to 500 kilowatts qualifies for an incentive of 70% of the benchmark cost and an incentive of Rs. 20 lakh /MW can be received for emplacing a project in a solar park. The Government of Mizoram has shown interest in issuing incentives worth 50 lakhs / MW to the farmers and the jobless on account of their participation in developing a project in the solar park.

The policy has strict stipulations with regard to all official state departments and institutions, along with the government of Mizoram, in installing solar rooftop systems. The policy formulates the setting up of grid-connected rooftop solar projects in all the buildings of the state, within the contracted capacity of 1KW and above.

Further incentives are in the form of 100% refund of the stamp duty on land purchased for the purpose of development of solar projects in the state. All facilities vis-à-vis manufacturing, production and other ancillary engagements have resorted to electricity duty exemptions.

North-East’s Largest ISBT Ready to be Operational

Arunachal Pradesh

Another milestone has been clocked in the North-Eastern region of India: development of largest and most comprehensive Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Its operations are slated to begin by mid-August post its official inauguration by the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Mr. Pema Khandu.

Spaciously structured to deliver multiple amenities, the ISBT in the Lekhi village, Naharlagun has been constructed by the Department of Urban Development (UD) at a cost of Rs.2039 lakhs.

Translating this project into a holistic model of convenience and easy accessibility, this space is laden with special facilities such as private areas for breastfeeding mothers, special attention has also been paid to differently-abled people. Apart from this, segmented sections catering to taxis, private and government bus services have also been taken care of in an organized manner, along with neatly spaced out areas allotted for the parking of inter and intercity vehicles.

With the area spread of 86460 square feet, this inter-state bus terminal is being regarded as the largest ISBT in the Rainbow States of India.

Assistant Urban Programme Officer Mr. Yumlam Alam said,” We have constructed 5 rooms fitted with modern facilities which will function as tourist lodge. Besides, a dormitory room along with the office for tourist information officer has been constructed. Also, there will be restaurants, food courts, two ATM counters, newspaper/magazine shops, separate toilet facilities for ladies and gentlemen.”

The inauguration of ISBT would be a retreat from congested traffic ailments and aid in sculpting efficient transport services in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

IFFCO Signs MOU with Sikkim to Diversify its Business

Dr U S Awasthi
Dr. U S Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO

With wide-ranging business interests and models, India’s biggest processed fertilizer cooperative – IFFCO has expressed its plans to explore business possibilities and opportunities across the organic food market segment and food processing sector. Constantly striving to expand, diversify and mature its business canvas, IFFCO has inked an agreement with the Government of Sikkim with an initial investment of Rs.200 crore, which shall increase to Rs.500 crore gradually.

In this joint venture, IFFCO shall hold the majority stake of 51 percent equity and 49 percent equity shall be held by the Government of Sikkim.

For this venture, the superlative technological expertise and innovative knowledge of Aquagri Processing Private Limited have been leveraged by IFFCO and Aquagri’s 50 percent shareholding has also been acquired for Rs.11 crore for the purpose of creating value additions in the food processing sector.

Reputed for harvesting natural sea plants, with particular emphasis on seaweed cultivation, Aquagri’s innovative solutions, apart from adding values to the industries of animal husbandry, food processing, and agriculture, are also a potential source of ameliorating community living through employment generation.

One of the significant engagements of Aquagri revolves around the development of organic product portfolio by making use of humic substances, bio actives and alternate sources of nutrition.

One of the pivotal products – a biostimulant – SAGARIKA, developed collectively by Aquagri and IFFCO, has been appreciated and valued by the farmers for espousing qualities that enhance crop productivity and is capable of resisting stress.

Capitalizing on this union, IFFCO is all prepared and energized to exhibit a variety of organic and nonchemical based products for crop nutrition. With the vision to enrich the entire northeastern region as a mega organic agricultural zone, Sikkim’s MOU with IFFCO has led the state in being responsible for facilitating the industrial level mass production and packaging of the organic products.

The accessibility and the reach of the products within the length and breadth of the northeastern region shall be taken care of by two IFFCO e-bazar centers in all the RainbowStates as planned by IFFCO.

Dr. U S Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO remarks, “Nobel ventures and good ideas which don’t result in profitable enterprises are quickly forgotten, as they are not sustainable. We are looking forward to exploring the organic opportunities across the country.”

Bagan: A Jewel of Southeast Asia

Bagan

Lying on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy river – 150 kilometers south-west of Mandalay, the vast plain of Bagan is a home to thousands of Buddhist temples that combine to form one of the richest archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and an extraordinary testament to the religious devotion of Myanmar’s people and rulers over the centuries.

Along with offering views quite unlike anywhere else on the earth, one of the beauties of spending time in what is now officially called the Bagan Archaeological Zone is that, once you have paid your K25,000 entry fee, you have the freedom to explore this fascinating area at your own leisure. Bagan is in general more-touristy and possibly less of the ‘real Myanmar’ than other parts of the country, but despite obvious sales ploys such as a multitude of children selling hand-drawn postcards, you will rarely suffer the hard sell – and the locals remain warm and friendly.

An Ancient Kingdom

BaganBagan (formerly known as Pagan) was the capital of a large influential kingdom from the ninth to the thirteenth century. This kingdom was the first to unify the area that is now Myanmar, establishing the Burmese culture and ethnicity as well as Theravada Buddhism in the region. Over this period of rule, as the city and kingdom grew in stature, over ten thousand temples were built on the surrounding plains.

Mongol invasions eventually led to the fall of the Kingdom of Pagan, the city was reduced to a small settlement, never to recover its past glory. The area did, however, remain a destination for Buddhist pilgrimage. A few hundred temples were added between the thirteenth and twentieth century, but the extensive earthquake damage over the years meant only 2,200 temples remained, in differing states of repair.

Indeed, over the last five hundred years, many of the existing temples have been renovated – a process continuing till date, has yielded mixed results. Many say that Bagan has not attained the UNESCO World Heritage site status due to the Myanmar government’s insensitive updates in the 1990s, although it is once again being considered. However, the area is large enough and there remains so much of what is original still to see, that none of this stops the area from being a unique wonder to behold.

Bagan

A Vast and Diverse Area

Each of the 2,200 plus temples, stupas and pagodas has its own unique story to tell, and many can be freely explored inside and out. Some are locked, but even if you are traveling around without a guide, you can sometimes find a friendly local nearby to open them for you. The most spectacular time to see the temples is when the sun dramatically rises and falls over the plain at dawn or dusk.

A large earthquake hit Bagan in 2016 and caused significant damage to some of the temples, but ironically, much of it was to the more modern additions to the then ancient structures. Many believe that the quake may actually end up encouraging more sensitive development in the area, and the vast majority of temples are now once again free to be explored.

Exploring the Temples and Plain

There are a number of ways to explore the area:

  • By Bicycle

This is the cheapest way to get around, and allows the most freedom to do as you choose; the plain is too large to explore by foot, but getting around by bike allows you to get to most of the temples. Almost all hotels and guesthouses offer them for hire, as do various restaurants and shops on the popular ‘Restaurant Row’ in the town of Nyaung U.

You can also cheaply hire an electric bike – through on the flat plains of Bagan, the advantages over a bicycle are minimal (tourists are not allowed to use motorbikes in the area).

You can pick up a free tourist map showing you the main points of interest; although you are unlikely to get seriously lost, it is worth planning your trip in advance to make the most of your time. Bear in mind that it can get hot and dusty when cycling, particularly during hotter times of the year, so carrying water is essential and helps you beat the heat. You can pick up refreshments at the many restaurants and tea shops in the area.

  • Horse and Cart Guided Tour

This is the most romantic way to tour the temples. Most drivers can speak minimum English and have the profound knowledge of better routes around the temples along with few hidden gems. However, horses have to follow more well-trodden tracks than bicycles, as there are areas they cannot reach. Prices range from K15,000 to K25,000 for a day, depending on the season.

  • By Car

If you want to avoid the heat and dust completely, take an air-conditioned taxi or minibus. This is naturally the most comfortable way to get around, and most drivers speak some English. Cars will usually cost between $20 and $50 per day, depending on the season and how far you travel.

  • By Hot Air Balloon

The most exotic and spectacular way to see the temples is to head to the sky. Trips cost USD285 per person and offer a unique view of the plain and temples. You should always book well in advance, particularly at popular times of the year such as Christmas and the New Year (the ballooning season runs from October to April).

Taking two or more days and using different forms of transport can be the best way to explore the plains. If you see the highlights by horse and cart or hot air balloon, then following it up with a bike ride can be the ideal way to find the specific temples that have taken your fancy.

Bagan

A Guide to the Top Temples

The best approach to explore temples with a guide, but you can also get some advice from a friendly local and start exploring on your own. There are some sites that should not be missed, which include:

  • The large and the beautifully maintained Ananda Pagoda – A huge festival takes place here in late December, which celebrates the traditional lives of farmers in the area; locals come from surrounding villages in their decorated bullock carts and camp on the plain. Theatrical troupes provide entertainment, and on the final daybreak, there are formal alms given to monks who live in the nearby monastery.
  • The Gawdaw Palin Pagoda which sits on the banks of the Irrawaddy River
  • The Myoe Daung Monastery – a beautiful teak-built structure and the imposing Tharabar Gate in Old Bagan.
  • The distinctive red brick Dhammayangyi temple, covering the largest area of all the temples in the area.
  • The tallest structure on the plain, The That Byin Nyu temple.
  • Amazing sunrise and sunset views from the Shwesandaw Pagoda and Pyathada pagodas. As of the new season starting in October 2017, there will also be a number of new hilltop viewpoints to stop overcrowding on the temples, and hopefully climbing on the temples will be restricted.
    Of all the pagodas in Bagan, the Shwezigon Pagoda in Nyaung U is a traditional Myanmar temple complex.

Away from the towns and most famous temples, exploring off beaten tracks can be a lot of fun; the pagodas that can be found east of Nyaung U, along with the banks of the Irrawaddy, are a good example. Here you will find open temples with beautifully preserved interiors, from the top of which you will see fantastic views over the river – and hardly other tourists.

For more background, history and more impressive collection of artifacts from the region, head to the Bagan Archaeological Museum, located off the main road near the river bank in Old Bagan (entry$5).

Content and Photo Courtesy – Marcus Allender, Founder, Go-Myanmar.com