THE MUCH awaited report, Global Warming of 1.5oC, was expected to jolt governments into action and announce some bold commitments to cut green-house gas emissions. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns about the cata-strophic impacts of climate change if global warming exceeds 2oC above pre-industrial levels, and makes the strongest case to limit it below 1.5oC (see ‘Every bit of warming makes a deference’, Down To Earth, 16-31 October, 2018). But nothing remarkable seems to have happened since.

Countries are proceeding, at both national and international levels, as if nothing has changed since 2015, when the historic Paris Agreement was signed. The Agreement seeks to hold the rise in the global temperature to well below 2oC and pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5oC. To help achieve the target, countries in the lead up to the Paris Agreement had declared their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCS), or domestic action plans to address climate change.

But Climate Action Tracker, which is a collaboration of three research organizations, says the aggregate effect of NDCS, even if they are fully acted on, takes us well past 2oC. The IPCC report says current NDCS would result in 3.5oC rise by the end of the century.

To stay on the right side of the threshold–IPCC estimates the world has only 12 years before it runs over the 1.5oC carbon budget–we need a 45 per cent reduction of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions by 2030, and a further reduction to net zero emissions in 2050 (both targets take 2010 emission levels as a baseline). This requires rapid and far-reaching transformations in our economies and commitments to start the transformation now.

The 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, which will be held from December 3 to 14, offers the perfect platform to initiate this transformation. COP24 is likely to be focused on the Paris Rulebook, which would set out the guidelines and rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement. It is expected to prompt countries to scale up climate action. But can it be achieved without targets?

Time to raise ambition

Currently, countries are required to update their NDCS in 2020. Analysts say revision of NDCS needs to start at Katowice if the world is serious about staying below the 1.5oC target.

Civil society pressure to make the 1.5oC target a priority is increasing, particularly in developed countries. A report by the European Capacity Building Initiative, an initiative in support of international climate negotiations, confirms the wide acceptance that climate efforts before 2020 are seen as vital to reducing global emissions. A newly formed civil society group, The Extinction Rebellion, had a thousand of its members protest in front of the Parliament House in London in October, issuing a declaration of civil disobedience as a means of drawing attention to the unfolding environmental crisis.

Thomas Hale, professor of climate policy at the University of Oxford, UK, says, “The groundswell of climate action from sub-national governments, the private sector and civil society has reached a massive scale, creating big opportunities which were not available a few year ago, for governments to step up their own pledges”. A report by research groups, Data-Driven Yale, New Climate Institute and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, says if current initiatives by individual groups continue to scale up, they could curb emissions by a third before 2030. These, says Hale, combined with stepped up NDCS can put the world on the 1.5oC pathway.

This pressure needs to translate into increased ambition in NDCS in Katowice. There is an avenue available to push for this. Talanoa Dialogue, initiated at COP23 in 2017, is a year-long consultative process to take stock of the collective efforts to reduce emission. It will culminate in Katowice with countries pledging to raise the ambition of their respective NDCS.

However, past experience shows countries tend to postpone negotiations. Increasing ambition has become an “after you, please” topic in international negotiations. This approach is often presented as the desire for equity for the impoverished. While this argument is often made stridently at home and abroad, the fact is these are the people who bear the maximum runt of climate impacts. To refuse to raise climate ambition citing the need for development is to shoot oneself in the foot. The two aims are not contradictory. As Benjamin Schachter, focal Point, Climate Change and Environment, at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says, there is a link between climate action and the success of Sustainable Development Goals, which is why the international community must take the most ambitious climate action to protect human rights, health and welfare. “Failure to take urgent action now clearly breaches human rights obligations,” Schachter adds.

Action should be taken in both developed and developing countries. Rahul Tongia and Sahil Ali, researchers with think-tank Brookings India say, India requires better frameworks aimed at deep decarburizing in energy and other sectors. Though decarburizing the power sector is easier than other sectors, this has limits; variable renewable energy needs large-scale storage solutions. Thongia and Ali say India should thus employ integrated strategies around urban development and land-use, preserve and enhance carbon sinks, and implement sustainable transportation systems.

Countries will also face challenges in raising ambition from groups which do not have an incentive to transition. Hale says there is a “need to find strategies to neutralize opposition from those actors most dependent on fossil fuels”. This requires both pressure to show them the status quo cannot last, and engagement, to help them find a new low-carbon future, he adds.

Equally important is a strong signal from the top. Last three years have seen the spirit of Paris Agreement chipped away be defections, under-whelming commitments from key players and dubious commitment records. If Katowice is to revive the spirit, it must star with seriously pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5oC.


AFTER BANNING the exchanges where cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are traded, the Chinese government is cracking down on plants where such currencies are mined. The Yingjiang Administration Bureau for Industry and Commerce, which enforces enterprises and consumer protection laws, has issued a notification to Bitcoin mining facilities in Yunnan province, asking them to register their firms with the Power Supply Bureau. In case of non-compliance, it warned them with power cuts, threatening the very premise on which their mining operations are based. The notifications surfaced after big facilities were found to be using the state-sponsored cheap electricity to mine cryptocurrencies. China accounts for the world’s highest computing power devoted to the crypto mining operations. It has made the country headquarters to some of the biggest crypto mining firms, including crypto giant Bitmain.











The Maharashtra forest department could have captured Anvi. Then why was she killed?

THE KILLING: On November 2, a sharp shooter, appointed by the Maharashtra forest department, gunned down Avni in the vicinity of Tippeshwar sanctuary. She was six years old with two cubs and was officially called T1. Armed with hand gliders, drones, sniffer dogs and elephants, forest officials were on a three-month search of Avni after courts ordered the department to capture of kill the tigress. Over the past two years, Avni and a male, T2, were suspected to have killed several humans; Avni was responsible for two recent killings.

CONTROVERSY: Animal lovers question whether Avni could have been saved, or at least captured. The National Tiger Conservation Authority does lay down protocols for declaring a tiger a “man-eater” and initiating its removal. While the jury is out on whether these were followed in Avni’s case, analysts observe a breach of the provisions of the Indian Veterinary Council Act 1984 as the order to tranquilise the tigers and her cubs had been entrusted to a person who was not a registered veterinarian. No veterinarian was present n the spot. An independent autopsy report suggests the tranquiliser dart may have been inserted into her thigh after the was shot. Media reports quote state government officials saying the forensics show the tigress was not charging at the term. In that case she would have been shot in her face or chest, not on shoulder.

POLITICS: Avni’s killing has triggered a battle of words between Union Minister for women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi and state forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, both belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Partry. “Tigress Avni could have been saved if Mungantiwar had been a little more patient…Request you to fix responsibility of killing and removing the minister from post,” said Gandhi, a known animal rights activist. Mungantiwar said that she needs to put in her papers owing moral responsibility because of malnutrition deaths. Meanwhile, Jayant Patil, state unit president of the Nationalist Congress Party, alleges that the forest department killed Avni to help mining industries of top business houses in that region.



After Alleging that India provides huge subsidies to its wheat and rice farmers, the US has again moved the World Trade Organization (WTO) complaining that the market price support for cotton in the country is “vastly in excess of what it has reported to WTO”. The US has also demanded a robust discussion on how India implements its policies at the upcoming WTO Committee on Agriculture meeting. Officials in New Delhi say they will strongly dispute the complaints as they are based on flawed calculations. They do not take the dollar-rupee difference into consideration and assume the entire production is eligible for subsidies.

China flip-flops o rhino, tiger parts

China has backtracked on a recent decision to legalise the “controlled” use of rhino and tiger parts for cultural and medicinal use. In 1993 China banned the trade in tiger bone and rhino horn. In October this year, the government eased the ban and said it would permit the use of rhino and tiger parts obtained from farmed animals for scientific, medical and cultural purposes. This had triggered a wave of protests from environmental groups. A couple of weeks later, Ding Xuedong, deputy secretary-general of China’s State Council. The country’s highest governing authority, issued a statement, saying the implementation of the regulations “has been postponed.” Ding did not give a reason for the postponement. Activists say every wild tiger and rhino would be I jeopardy until china cancels the ban reversal permanently.


RESISTANCE TO antibiotics and pesticides is rising at alarming rats, shows the first estimates of antibiotic and pesticide “planetary boundaries”, published in Nature Sustainability. If resistance to antibiotics and pesticides goes beyond these boundaries, societies risk large-scale health and agricultural crises, say the researchers who have assessed the stat of six types of resistance–antibiotic resistance in Gram–negative and Gram-positive bacteria; general resistance to insecticides and herbicides; and resistance to transgenic Bt-crops and glyphosate resistance in herbicide resistant cropping systems. Gram-negative bacteria, which includes well-known pathogens such as Salmonella, Klebsiella pneumonia and E coli, are already beyond the “planetary boundary,” as some strains of several species are alreadyresistant to all or most antibiotics tested. Pesticide resistance is also an urgent concern, particularly resistance to glyphosate and insecticidal Bt-toxins in transgenic crops, which are now widespread. Some herbicides and Bt toxins have already reached regional boundaries with some farming areas reporting large-scale resistance to them.



Last fortnight, I had explained how, in spite of all the drastic measures taken, including a ban on construction; coal usage in industry; truck entry into the city; and more, are pollution may city was still at emergency levels. I reiterate that small and timid steps will not work.

As I write this, are quality has slightly improved. For the moment it seems the worst of the winter-onset-Diwali-crop burning period could be behind us. But the fact is that this does not mean that air quality will not once again decline in the coming months. It is now clear that the region’s own sources of pollution are greatly responsible for the poor air quality we have seen in the past few weeks. Crop burning is exacerbating this situation, not creating it.

According to the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the contribution of crop burning to the region’s pollution stress, peaked on November 5, when it went up to 33 per cent. After that, because of the direction of wind, the contribution has ranged between 5-14 per cent. There is no doubt that these emissions from crop residue burning are coming at a time when there was accumulated load, and very adverse weather tipped us over the edge into severe pollution.

But it is also clear that even if we eliminate crop bringing in the coming months, weather conditions will only get more adverse. The cold will increase, which will add to inversion and not allow dispersion; moisture will increase, which will trap the pollutants. And in case we have prolonged periods of poor wind and low ventilation index (that measures dispersion), then we could be back again in the server and severe plus category.

As I explained earlier, we have adopted a smog alert system, the Graded Response Action Plan, which allows for strict action to be taken when pollution peaks. It is an emergency plan, not a substitute for an action plan which works to reduce3 pollution altogether. This winter, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), of which I am a member, directed for the closure of all construction activity; all industrial activity (other than those based on natural gas(; all brick kilns, stone-crushers and hotmix plants. In the days post Diwali, it also asked for truck entry into Delhi to be stopped–all to combat the worst of pollution.

And these measures helped to reduce the pollution levels. However, it was also clear that the city could not have continued to impose these restrictions beyond 12-13 days, even as pollution levels did not go down below the severe category. The fact is that these are economic activities and shutting them down creates huge livelihood challenges of the very poor, daily labourers in the city. The poor in our cities suffer the most because of air pollution as their work requires them to do strenuous activity in the polluted air. By bringing in these measures, which were essential to battle the pollution emergency, we had bit them twice as they also lost their livelihood sources. Trucks cannot not be held at the border of the city indefinitely. It was clear that emergency measures cannot be as a proxy for our inaction on long-term emission reduction.

So, the question was what more could be done. This is when EPCA’S chairperson suggested that there should also be a restriction on the plying of private vehicles in the city. He said this because the latest emission inventory has shown that vehicles contribute 40 per cent of the pollution in the city. Also, private diesel vehicles add substantially to both NOx and PM emissions and are deadly toxic.

The sticker scheme to identify vehicles based on age and fuel type has not yet been implemented and he suggested that the only option was to either ban all private vehicles (without the identification of petrol or diesel), other than CNG and/or restriction on plying by number plate (odd-even).

Suddenly there was outrage. It was on longer about pollution–deadly and hazardous for our health. No, it was against the very idea of “touching” the private car. There is no doubt that restricting cars without adequate public transport will be a nightmare. But governments do nothing to upgrade our system of commute. When there is a public health emergency, why should only the poor be asked to sacrifice?

In my extremely polluted city where I continue to work and fight, there is silence on this question. It is an inconvenient truth.


Rise of the e-car

This video explains treason behind the rise in the number of electric vehicles worldwide. Fine out which countries are buying such cars.

Natural home cleaners

Tired of using harsh cleaners to remove dirt? Kirti Negi Bajoria shows how to make multipurpose cleaner as well as glass and mirror liquid polisher at home using various kinds of essential oils and castile soap.

Disparity in life expectancy

There is a huge regional inequality in life expectancy. For Africa it was 61 years in 2015 while in North America and Europe, it varied between 70 and 80.

Under shadow of death

India records the highest number of premature deaths among under-five children due to toxic air. In 2016, some 102,000 children died due to air pollution.

Safe for health

The Milk Quality Survey 2018 says that milk in India is largely safe as only 10 per cent sold in the markets is contaminated.

Rhine dries up

Water level in the Rhine, Germany’s most important river, is at a record low level due to a drought which is being blamed on climate change.

Death of Sarayu

The Sarayu river is choking to death. It was in spotlight on Diwali when over 0.3 million earthen lamps were lit up on its banks.

Forest right

In the past decade, tribal communities have filed 4.21 million claims under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. But just 1.74 million of them have been approved, says a report compiled by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. In Masters of the woods (16-31 December, 2017), Down To Earth reported that the scope of FRA is huge, as there are 150 million forest dwellers. As per an estimate done by the Community Forest Resource-Learning and Advocacy, about 45 per cent of India’s total forest area should be recognized under Community Forest Rights.

People should fight harassment

This refers to the Last Word “The others too” (1-15 November, 2018). Harassment or sexual exploitation of any gender can never be justified. Such acts must be reported on time to the appropriate authorities. This becomes vital when people lodge complaints with the police. If such acts are silently accepted, then they go on unchecked. So, it is the moral as well as social duty of the victims to raise objections immediately. However, the outcome of their claims is subject to legal recourse. One must also bear in mind that if innocent people are dragged into the matter, they lose their social reputation. To prevent filing of false complaints, courts must either punish or impose fine.



Avni’s death

This refers to the article “What is the exact procedure to remove a man-eater?” published in the website on 8 November, 2018. The killing of alleged man-eating tigress, Avni or T1, is no doubt condemnable. This is an extreme case of violence against animals. Today, human greed has endangered flora and fauna. There are reports of wild animals being crushed to death by speeding vehicles passing through natural reserves and elephants being mowed down by speeding trains. Panthers and leopards enter human settlements in search of food because we have encroached upon their habitat and destroyed their natural food sources. Development projects in forested areas like the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey Colony in Mumbai has destroyed forest cover. If Avni became a man-eater, we are no less to be blamed for it. Construction of highway through forests, land grab in coastal areas and degradation of salt pans, wetlands and mangroves have resulted in tragic consequences. Yet, we put the blame on Avni. Her killing, legal or illegal, is not the issue. Many Avnis are being killed by our acts of omission or commission. It is time we take a holistic view of conservation.

Stubble burning

This refers to the article “A quick fix” (1-15 November, 2018). Even after the National Green Tribunal banned crop burning in 2015, farmers in certain states, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, still continue to burn paddy stubble, unmindful of the heavy pollution it causes. The National Capital Region in particular is badly affected by this act every winter.

Use of machines to manage paddy straw is a costly option. So, only a few farmers who can afford mechanization are using them despite government subsidy. Time has come for the Centre to take the initiative to end crop burning on a priority basis Making structural changes in the farm sector is also crucial to deal with this important issue. Though it will take a considerable period of time to end the practice of stubble burning, a quick start in this direction is imperative to prevent rising smoke billowing from burning fields from engulfing the environment and polluting our cities.

Easy solution to crop burning

This refers to “Crop burning: Small famers left in lurch as machines favour big landholders” published in the website on 17 October, my farm near Kota in Rajasthan, I have used a new type of machine this year for managing paddy stubble. It can be termed appropriate technology. First, a team of 14 women manually cuts the rice close to the ground and then lays it I bundles. Then I use the machine which ensures that the bundles are gathered and threshed at one place. As a result of this, the straw ends up in a pile at one place rather than getting strewn all over the field. The straw is either used as cattle fodder or loaded in farm trolleys.

Climate catastrophe

I was touched by the headline “Every bit of warming makes a difference” on the cover page of the 16-31 October, 2018 edition. Global efforts to maintain the temperature to 1.5o Celsius are getting weakened by rising aspirations and sting economic contribution on for CO2 emission control. To contain global warming, it is vital to redefine our understanding of development. Asian development model should be different from the western one. Let us follow a simple lifestyle.

Great initiative

This refers to “Can India reduce food wastage with community refrigerators?” published in the website o 12 October, 2018. The idea shared is indeed wonderful. It needs to be replicated in smaller cities and towns across the country.

Catching rainwater

This refers to the article “Wells rescued” (1-15 November, 2018). It is good news that Thrissur district in Kerala is recharging 0.45 million wells. Water harvesting is the need of the hour. It should be made mandatory in all our cities. This well researched article should bring about greater awareness.

Aarey’s Chipko movement

This refers to the article “Aarey’s Chipko moment” (1-15 November, 2018). I applaud the efforts of the local residents, who are trying to protect the last patch of forest in Goregaon from the proposed metro rail project. However, I have certain disagreements with the title used to convey environmental action in Mumbai. Ramachandra Guha and Juan Martinez-Alier distinguished between two forms of environmentalism–environmentalism of world environmentalism. Chipko falls under the first category, where local demand was to save trees for livelihood needs. On the other hand, we can call the creation of national parks in the United States as an example of the latter. Author Amita Baviskar uses the term bourgeoisie environmentalism or middle class environmentalism in cities as a form of desire to protect the environment. My main argument is that a shallow understanding of the a shallow understanding of the Chipko movement or a borrowing of the word to denote a desire to protect the environment harms the discourse of rural communities who depend n forests in the present day when the global meaning of environment has acquired so much prominence. Further, this narrow understanding o Chipko in the light of the movement has created hardships for communities living close to forests.

Polycropping in Anantapur

This refers to the article, “Anantapur farmers take up polycropping to drought-proof agriculture” published in the website on 26 February, 2018. The report is highly informative. I like it and would like to see such stories carried regularly in online portals on agriculture.


Environmental issues like climate change, water availability, pollution, waste generation and disposal are commanding considerable global attention. Industries, as a major user of raw materials and energy and source of pollution and waste generation, have a major role in addressing current and emerging environmental issues. Environmental managers in industry have a challenging task to keep industry have a challenging task to keep industry clean, competitive and compliant with national and international rules, Acts and treaties.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had been conducting training programme to build capacity in industry for the past two decades and has trained hundreds of environment managers. This time a four-day training programme is scheduled in February, 2019 in New Delhi.

The takeaway from this training programme includes improved understanding for participants on:

  1. Environmental Laws for better compliance;
  2. Roles and responsibilities of environment managers to comply with such legal requirements and strengthening self regulation mechanism;
  3. Processes and procedures to obtain environment and forest clearance, Consent to Establish (CTE), Consents to Operate (CTO), authorization for hazardous wastes and other clearances/licenses;
  4. Implementation of Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS);
  5. Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Management System and its implementation;
  6. Protocol for conducting environmental audit for improving resource management;
  7. Understanding sustainability reporting as per GRI G4 guidelines and
  8. How to review Environmental and Social impact assessment report.

Land is an area of the earth’s surface, the characteristics of which embrace all reasonably stable or predictable cyclic attributes of biosphere. The atmosphere, soil hydrology, plant and animal populations and the result of past and present human activity exert a significant role on future uses of land by human beings.

Land-use and land cover change (LULCC), also known as human induced land transformation, is a generic term for the human modification of earth’s terrestrial surface (Richards, 1994). Though humans have been modifying land to obtain food and other essentials for thousands of years, current rates, extents and intensities of LULCC are far greater than ever in history, driving unprecedented changes in ecosystems and environmental processes at local, regional and global scales. These changes encompass the greatest environmental concern of human populations today including climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution of water, soil and air. Monitoring and mediating the negative consequences of LULCC while sustaining the production of essential resources has therefore become a major priority of researchers and policy makers around the world.

A geographic information system (GIS) is designed to work with geographic or spatial data. The unique feature of GIS is its ability to link non-geographic data with geographic data. In other words, GIS is both a database system with specific capabilities for spatially referenced data as well as a set of operations for working with the data. GIS technology integrates common database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps (Jensen et al., 1996). GIS is computer based, capable of digitally reproducing and analyzing the features and events occurring on the earth’s surface. Since a large part of data generated today has a geographical reference, it becomes imperative to underline the importance of a system which can represent the given data adequately.

Remote sensing is the science (and to some extent, art) of acquiring information about the earth’s surface without actually being in contact. By recording reflected or emitted energy and processing, analyzing and applying that information, remote sensing offers a handy tool that can be used for procuring information about terrestrial objects from a platform placed at a sufficiently high altitude (ibid).

LULCC, defined as the assemblage of biotic and abiotic components on the Earth’s surface, is one of the most crucial properties of the earth system (Turner et al., 1994). Land cover plays a major role in the carbon cycle, acting as both a source and a sink of carbon. In particular, the rates of deforestation, forestation and regrowth of plant play a significant role in the release and sequestering of carbon and consequently affect atmospheric CO2 concentration and the strength of the greenhouse effect. Finally, land cover also reflects the availability of food, fuel, timber, fibre, and shelter resources for human populations and serves as a critical indicator of other ecosystem services such as biodiversity. Information on land cover is fundamental to many national/global applications including watershed management and agricultural productivity. Thus, the need to monitor land cover is derived from multiple intersecting drivers including the physical climate, ecosystem health and societal needs.

Land cover mapping is a product of the development of aerial photography and remote sensing technology because of the benefits it offers (wide area coverage, frequent revisits, multispectral, multisource and storage in digital format to facilitate subsequent updating and compatibility with GIS technology) that proved to be a very practical and economic means for an accurate classification of land cover Colwell and Weber, 1981). Remote sensing offers an important means of detecting and analyzing temporal changes and since the early 1970s satellite data has been commonly used for change detection studies (Jensen et al., 1996). The satellite images provide a digital mosaic of the spatial arrangement of land cover and vegetation types amenable to computer processing. The use of remote sensing and GIS technologies can greatly facilitate the process of collection, analysis and presentation of resource data. Satellite images or aerial photographs are useful for both the visual assessment of natural resources dynamics occurring at a particular time and space as well as well as the quantitative evaluation of LULCC. The changes in LULCC due to natural and human activities can be observed using the past and the current remotely sensed data, which helps monitor and determine the impact on the ecosystem (Roy and Roy, 2010).

The remote sensing and GIS approach for land cover dynamics is now a widely accepted tool because of its ability to examine spatially referenced objects over time however, the GIS overlaying forest change detection technique has been found to be superior (Roy and Tomar, 2001). Satellite remote sensing provides a synoptic view of forests and their condition n real-time basis, playing a pivotal role in generating information about forest cover, vegetation type and land use changes (Houghton and Woodwell, 1981).

LULCC are perhaps the most prominent as they occur at spatial and temporal scales immediately relevant to our daily existence. Technically, LULCC means quantitative changes in areal extent (increase or decrease) of a given type of land use and land cover respectively. The changes in land use in various spatial and temporal domains are the material expressions and also indicate environmental and human dynamics and their interactions mediated by land availability.


Maps and measurements of land cover can be derived directly from remotely sensed data by a variety of analytical procedures, including statistical methods and human interpretation. Assessing the driving forces behind LULCC is necessary if past patterns are to be explained and used I forecasting future patterns. Driving forces of LULCC can include almost any factor that influences human activity including local culture (food preference, etc.), economics (demand for specific products, financial incentives), environmental conditions (soil quality, terrain, moisture availability), land policy quality, terrain, moisture availability), land policy and development programmes agricultural programmes, road building, zoning0 and feedbacks between these factors including past human activity on the land (land degradation, irrigation and roads).

Spatially explicit models of the social and environmental causes and consequences of LULCC are made possible by GIS and other computer-based techniques which can define and test relationships between environmental and social variables using a combination of existing data (census data, soil maps, LULC maps), observations on the ground (ecological measurements, household surveys and interviews with land managers) and data from remote sensing. These spatial models of LULCC drivers and their impacts can be used to establish cause and effect in LULCC observed in the past and are also extremely useful tools for land manages and policymakers offering for casts of future land use changes and their effects.

A remote sensing device records response which is based on many characteristics of the land surface including natural and artificial cover. An interpreter uses the element of tone, texture, pattern, shape, size, shadow, site and association to drive information about land cover.

Case Study: Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary

A study has been carried out to ascertain the land use transformation in the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala between 1973 and 2009. It is located between 77o8’ and 77o17’ east and between 8o29’ and 8o37’ north is spread over the southeast corner of the Western Ghats and covers a total area of 128 sq km. two suitable cloud-free images were used for this study. A Land sat Multi Spectral Scanner (MSS) image dated March 20, 1973 and IRS-IC Linear Imaging Self Scanner (LISS)-III satellite data of March 19, 2009 covering path and row101/68 was obtained from the National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad. LANDSAT-MSS data with a spatial resolution of 80 m and spectral bands (B1 0.5-0.6 B2 0.6-0.7, B3 0.7-0.8, and B4 0.8-1.1 µm) and IRS-P6 LISS-III data with a spatial resolution of 24 m and spectral bands (B2 0.52-059, B3 0.62-068, B4 0.77-0.86, and B5 1.55-1.70 µm) were analyzed. The digital number (DN) values of the Landsat MSS and IRS P6 LISS III data were converted into radiance values using the corresponding satellite sensor parameters.

Unwanted artefacts like additive effects due to atmospheric scattering were removed through a set of pre-processing or cleaning up routines. First-order corrections were done using the dark pixel subtraction technique (Lilles and Kiefer, 1999). This technique assumes that there is a high probability that at least a few pixels within an image would be black (0 per cent reflectance). However, because of atmospheric scattering, the image system records a non-zero DN value at the supposedly dark shadowed pixel location. This represents the DN value that must be subtracted from the particular spectral band to remove the first-order scattering component.

Subsets of satellite images were first rectified for their inherent geometric errors using 1:25,000 topographic maps in World Geodetic System, 1984. Registration was carried out using distinctive features such as road intersections and stream confluences that are also clearly visible in the image. A first-degree rotation scaling and translation transformation function and nearest neighbor resembling methods were applied. These resampling methods use the nearest pixel without any interpolation to create the warped image (Richards, 1994). A total of 32 ground points were used for registration of Landsat MSS image subset with a rectification error of less than 1 pixel. The LISS III images were registered to the already registered Landsat MSS images through image-to-image registration technique with rectification errors of 0.12 and 0.08 pixels respectively with the help of toposheets. A very high level of accuracy in georeferencing of the images was possible because of the use of digital reference data that allowed zooming to the nearest possible point location (Gautam et al., 2003).

A hybrid approach combines the advantages of the automated and manual methods to produce a comprehensive land cover map. One hybrid approach is to use one of the automated classification methods to do an initial classification and then use manual methods to refine the classification and correct errors; refining the classes that did not get labelled correctly. A reasonably good classification can be obtained quickly with this approach.

Analysis of the satellite sensor data has been carried out using various digital analytical procedures. For the classification of the satellite sensor data, a stack of maximum normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) images were generated. The NDVI images were examined, mean and standard deviation values were calculated and a thresholding technique (Fung and Ellesworth, 1988) was applied to demarcate different forest types. The supervised maximum likelihood classification method was also used for the images; classification. Training sites were derived from the satellite images using reference maps. Based on the knowledge of the data and ground truthing, different land cover classes were identified in the study area. Parametric signatures were used to train a statistically based (mean and covariance matrix) classifier to define the classes. Training sites were digitised within Erdas Imagine (Erdas, 2010), using the AOI tools. After the signatures were defined, the image was classified using the maximum likelihood parametric rule. To deliver the appropriate support size of each category the required training set for each class was determined at least ten times the number of discriminating variables used in the classified ap. Maximum likelihood classifier assigns a pixel to a particular class based upon the covariance information and a substantially superior performance is expected from this method compared to other approaches (Richards, 1994). Landsat MSS and IRS LISS III data are classified in the same manner. The different forest classes are classified based on the standard forest classification scheme, following which the map underwent an accuracy assessment.

Accuracy assessment involves identifying a set of sample locations (ground verification points). The forest cover found in the field is then compared to that which was mapped in the image for the same location by means of error or confusion matrices. Accuracy assessment is done by suing four measures: overall accuracy, user’s accuracy, producer’s accuracy and Kappa coefficient. A total of 30 random points for each class were taken to determine the accuracy of the classification method. The overall map accuracy was calculated by dividing the total correct classified pixels (major diagonal of the error matrix) by the total number of pixels in the error matrix. Producer’s accuracy indicates the probability of reference pixel being correctly classified and is a measure of omission error. User’s accuracy is the probability of the classified pixel actually representing that category on the ground. User’s accuracy is a measure of commission error (Jensen, 1996). The Kappa Coefficient measures the proportional improvement of classification over purely random assignment to classes. This accuracy measure attempts to control for a chance agreement by incorporating the off-diagonal elements as a product of the row and column of the error matrix (Cohen, 1960). After accuracy assessment, all images were clumped and vectorised in Erdas Imagine 9.1 programme.

Classified and accuracy assessed satellite images are used for change detection analysis–the raster image converted into corresponding land cover polygon with the ESRI Arc GIS software. Arc GIS geographic analysis extension is used for change detection analysis and the 1973 land cover polygon is used in union with 2009 land cover image. A Boolean operation ‘AND’ was applied between the two binary land cover polygons to identify the unchanged areas in Arc GIS. Based on the change detection analysis, land cover change between the years 1973 and 2009 was generated and area statistics calculated. In the change table a positive value indicates that the area of land cover is increased with respect to the previous year and a negative value indicates that the land cover area is decreased compared to the previous land cover image. The detailed methodology is explained in. the land cover map for 1973 and 2009 are given.

Land cover change assessment for a period of 36 years helped identify the rate and characteristics of forest type transformations. Two major and divergent trends, positive and negative were observed–the former indicating that the area of forest type has increased while the latter marks a decrease. In Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, during 1973-2009 the rate of change of west coast tropical evergreen forest is -2.7 per cent, west coast semi-evergreen forest is -2.9 per cent, southern moist mixed deciduous forest is -3.0 per cent, southern hilltop tropical evergreen forest is -1.1 per cent while the southern dry mixed deciduous forest is 4.7 per cent, grassland is 1.3 per cent, water body is 0.4 per cent and encroachments/settlement is 1.0 per cent.

The land cover change map thus generated indicates that the forest type during the study period was degrading; meaning that the extent of west coast tropical evergreen forest and west coast semi evergreen forest was decreasing. The spatial location of land cover change indicated that most of these forest cover transformations have occurred on the fringes of the sanctuary or near the settlements inside the sanctuary.

The changes can be attributed to a number of causes, principally livelihood dependence, agricultural expansion and infrastructure development resulting from population growth in and around the area, tourism activities, forest fire and uncoordinated policies of different governmental agencies. A geographic understanding of land use change processes can be achieved by analyzing a temporal database for spatial patterns, rates of change and trends.


The present case study clearly chows the application of remote sensing and GIS technology for assessing human induced transformation in the forest ecosystem. It is very easy to identify the positive changes leading to regeneration of the ecosystem. The negative changes indicate the forest degradation status. GIS and remote sensing techniques are widely used for the sustainable and integrated management of natural resources like forests.

The ushering of the new millennium saw global leaders pledging towards freeing all men, women and children from abject poverty. This marked a crucial milestone in the history of developmental studies and the vision was translated into a framework of the following eight major goals, commonly known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were sought to be achieved by the end of 2015.

As 2015 drew to a close, more than 1 billion people across the globe were pulled out of poverty, more children went to schools and paved way for innovative partnerships in the developed and the developing world alike (Moon, 2015). The MDGs through its implementation saved the lives of many and improved the overall living conditions of people across the globe. For instance, under 5 mortality rates dropped from 183 deaths per 100,000 live births to 83 for the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, from 129 to 53 for the countries in South Asia, 58 to 18 for East Asia and Pacific and from 54 to 18 for the Latin American and the Caribbean countries between 1990 and 2015. Niger which had the highest under 5 mortality (328) in 1990, reported a all of more than 200 counts to 98 in 2015. Similarly, India reported a fall by 78 counts (from 126 in 1990 to 48 in 2015). On the other hand, in terms of per capita GDP, China reported a 9.2 per cent increase, India a 5.0 per cent increase, United States a 1.6 per cent and Switzerland an increase by 1 per cent between 1990 and 2014 (UNICEF, 2016).

Yet, a vast gap remained between the proposed goals and what was achieved in reality. For instance, a high degree of poverty still existed in concentrated pockets across the world; instances of maternal mortality were not rare; coverage of basic amenities could not be realized; and girls were kept out of school owing to prevalent social taboos. Though the achievements of the MDGs could be mapped, but the universality of coverage of such achievements was far from being realized. India performed well in achieving few of the targets set in the MDGs. For instance, the Poverty Head Count Ratio (PHCR), which was 47.8 per cent in 1990s, was expected to be 23.9 per cent (halved) by 2015. However, by 2011-12, the PHCR was reported to be 21.1 per cent owing to the successful implementation of schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) and both urban and rural health missions (MoSPI, 2015). Further, enrolment and completion rates of girls at primary level have almost caught up with that of the boys (MHRD, 2016). However, in terms of progress made in the coverage of improved sanitation facilities and decreasing rates of maternal mortality, the country seems to be quite off-the track.

Having crossed the target year of 2015 in achieving the MDGs and in the light of ongoing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it becomes crucial to enable an understanding of the global developmental scenario. This article highlights the basic premises on which the SDGs have been conceptualized and tries to figure out how efficiently these would help bridge the gap left by the MDGs.

The Sustainable Development Goals: A New Milestone in the Development Sector   

With the target year of the MDGs coming to an end, the member states of the United Nations met at the General Assembly in January 2016. Realizing the need to address the critical concerns of climate change, need for innovation, sustainable consumption, lives on land and those below water, the resolutions taken at the United Nations General Assembly in October 2015 towards ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ have been collated under the broader framework of SDGs–also popularly referred to as the Global Goals. The targets are deemed to e achieved by 2030. The SDGs consist of 17 major goals destined to meet 169 targets.


It is envisaged beyond doubt that the SDGs have a wider coverage in comparison to the MDGs. However, John Coonrod (2014) has attempted to look at the two developmental goals through a common lens and his arguments may be summarized as follows:

  • While the MDG aimed at freeing half of the global population from poverty and hunger, the SDGs targeted at achieving the statistical zero in terms of impoverishment, infant mortality and other indictors.


  • The targets of the MDGs were based on the basic premise of rich countries helping out the poor ones by providing financial aids and other forms of support. But since then, there has been a drastic change in the global scenario. Poverty has reduced to a great extent, though intro-country inequality and disparity have greatly increased. Evidently, 1.4 per cent of population in China in 2015 lived below USD 1.90 per day as compared to 66.1 per cent in 1990. However, in contrast, the intra-country Gini-Coefficients, used to map inequality, computed using a range of income or consumption variables are found to have increased from 32.7 in 1990 to 47.8 in 2007 (Milanovic, 2013). It is envisaged that the majority of poor live in middle income countries. To meet the common targets of the SDGs, countries need to set up individual achievable targets, keeping in mind the performance of the different socio-economic indicators.


  • Though the MDGs were successful in addressing some of the contemporary challenges like bringing gender parity at pre-primary levels of education, increase the continuation rate of children in primary education, reducing mortality rates, crucial factors like inclusivity in addressing the global concerns of human rights, peace and harmony, issues of governance, sustainable living in the cities and neighbourhoods, lives on land and below water etc., have often been neglected. These have been attempted to be addressed through the global goals. The gender goals and the anticipatory governance goals set by SDGs seem to be much stronger a component in comparison to the MDGs.


  • Unlike the SDGs, the MDGs perceived that hunger and nourishment and poverty are interlinked domains. Therefore, the issue was targeted to be addressed through Goal 1. Research dedicated to these concerns reveals that poverty is not only linked to hunger and impoverishment but can also bear a multidimensional character. A recent study undertaken by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Indices illustrates that poverty is not only reflected in undernourishment, but also in the years of schooling, attendance to school, access to clean cooking fuels, electricity, toilet facilities and non-possession of specific assets (OPHI, 2010). Therefore, SDGs emphasize on separating poverty (Goal 1) and food and nutritional security (Goal 2) as independent domains that need dedicated attention to reduce if not completely eliminate the variety of human problems concerning availability and accessibility of basic resources on which the living conditions depend.


  • Much of the targets of the MDGs were achieved through the grants received, but the SDGs are laid on the grants received, but the SDGs are laid on the core strategy of sustainability where countries would be mobilized to generate their funds internally to mitigate the developmental challenges faced by them.


  • Though the world has made significant achievements in terms of the social and the developmental indicators, yet peace and abatement of conflict are two domains where progress has been lacking. To this end, the Global Goals have emphasized on peace building as one of the major components.


  • The MDGs looked at quantitative achievements whereas the SDGs look at improving living in both quantitative and qualitative terms and leading to a sustainable end. For instance, while the former emphasized on increasing the enrolment rates and literacy levels, the latter additionally focused on the quality of education provided and the learning outcomes of the eligible population. Likewise, the concerns for monitoring, evaluating and accountability of the data, produced by the different countries in attaining social and economic development, which found little space in the MDGs, received a great thrust in the SDGs.

The preceding discussion makes it clear that the coverage of the SDG is far more inclusive in comparison to the ones laid down in the MDG. Four years down the line, countries across the world are progressing towards achieving the Global Goals. However, there are some issues that require attention.

Critiques of SDG

The SDGs have often been criticized because of its extremely structured approach in addressing the complex sustainability challenges. Human experiences and their problem solving skills vary to a great extent, therefore, straight jacketing human sustainability issues in a set of 17 pre defined goals may not be a very good idea. Such approach may be fruitful for some of the developed nations across the world, but it tends to undermine the strength of the bottom up approach involving community led development–a trend that dominates in the countries where culturally varying communities co-reside.

Scholarly debates (IISD, 2016) circumscribe the fact that unlike its predecessor–the MDGs–a neat and tidy set of eight goals, the SDGs might suffer the brunt of sprawling targets deemed to be achieved by 2030. The critiques argue that a 2030 agenda comprising of 17 goals and 169 targets is bound to collapse under its own weight.

The developmental goals are deemed to be mapped using 231 socio-economic indicators. But, capturing such a vast array has different implications for different countries. On the one hand, for the economically better off countries with higher infrastructural set up, capturing temporal data for quantifying the development might prove to be technically hazardous. On the other, for poorer nations, the entire exercise might divert attention from other crucial concerns that require immediate attention. For poorer nations it would be a tough challenge indeed to achieve even half the targets laid down in the Global Goals.

Moreover, for most countries, all the indicators are not readily available. Even for the ones for which they are existing, there may be some definitional issues which hinder cross-country comparability.


Global Goals are set on a mission of wider coverage of factors that define sustainability in all aspects of human life unlike its predecessor, the MDGs. Although the MDGs paved the way for achieving sustainable targets and showed how human beings could be driven towards leading a better life, it could not completely free human population from the agonies of unsustainable living conditions. The Global Goals are intended to take up the situation from where the MDGs have left in 2015. However, the successful realization of the agenda for 2030 would call for better coordination of the different tiers of governments so that there is harmony between local level schemes and the achievable targets. With more than a decade left to achieve the Global Goals, one can afford to be optimistic about eh endeavours of SDGs.

With more than half of humanity across the world now living in urban areas, some of it in most abject poverty, destitution and adverse circumstances, it is evident that the path to sustainable development must also pass through cities. The global urbanization trend is creating an urgency to find smarter ways to manage the accompanying challenges. Smart cities are seen as a way to overcome them. In a recent research published by the Centre for Globalization and Strategy. IESE Business School, 165 cities spread across 80 countries in the world have been mapped using indicators of human capital, social cohesion, economy, governance, transport, international outreach and technology to generate a composite index for cities in motion (CIM Index) (Berrone and Richart, 2018). While on one hand, New York tops the list of smart cities in CIM Index, Karachi in Pakistan emerges as the poorest performer. Three cities in India, namely Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, figure out in the 158th and 160th ranks, respectively.

A smart city is also used as a marketing label by private companies, industry and city associations themselves to usher financial investments and competitiveness. A global review of smart cities reveal a great deal of variety in their scale, economic structures, technological interventions and sectoral priorities. For instance, while Tokyo and New York are megacities or city-regions and international financial hubs, cities like Songdo in South Korea is confined to 1,500 acres only near the Incheon international airport while Dubuque, which proclaims itself to be the first smart city in the US, has a population of 60,000 only. By Indian standards, that may only translate in to a modestly dense middle-income locality or a portion of Dharavi slum in Mumbai. Nevertheless, there is undoubtedly immense potential of utilizing innovative technologies in increasing systemic efficiency, quality of services for citizens and municipal governance in urban local bodies. International best practices have not just shown low- bearing fruits in sectors of public transport and mobility, tax collections, etc., but also synergistic co-benefits in addressing widespread challenges such as climate change, clean air and conservation of water resources (Sethi and de Oliveira, 2018).

Early beginnings have been made by Indian cities in the ‘smart’ domain through the rubric of e-governance by many state and local governments in the last two decades. For instance, in Bengaluru, real time technology relays information of bus timings, congested routes and so on. In Indore, the traffic police have installed infrared devices to nab rule violators (Narayan, 2014). Similarly, in New Delhi, municipal corporations have an online system to disburse birth or death certificates, collect property taxes, selected bills and issue building permits as well.

While there is a worldwide call to battle challenges like climate change, poverty, inequality and sporadic development in developing societies through transformative sustainability, innovation and low-carbon societies, there is also the pressing need of the aspiring Indian middle-class for enhanced living standards, systems efficiency, place making akin to international standards. Hence, the Government of India has made attempts to strategically respond to the domestic audience through its Smart Cities Mission (SCM) and get into the international league of smart cities.

Having set off on a journey to become increasingly global, India still faces an uphill urban challenge when it comes to its aspirations of leap-frogging into the league of smart cities. According to the 2011 census, almost 32 per cent (377 million) of the country’s population lived in urban areas as against 28 per cent in 2001 and 17 per cent in 1991. While urban share of national GDP was 75 per cent in 2011, urban contribution to national greenhouse gases was estimated to be around 66.5 to 70.3 per cent (Livingstone, 2017). Official population projections suggest that urban population in India is about to grow at the pace of 2.83 per cent per annum from 340 million in 2008 to 590 million in 2030. (MoUD, 2011), 68 per cent of the world would be living in urban areas by 2050 (World Urbanization Prospects, 2018). By 2039, most estimates consider India would be 50 per cent urbanized. To keep pace with such growth, the country would have to spend USD 1.2 trillion in its urban areas (MoKinsey, 2010).

Officially launched by PM Narendra Modi on June 25, 2015, SCM aimed to make 100 major cities of the country smart through a competitive process of selection. The objective of the mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘smart’ solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a lighthouse to other aspiring cities (NIUA, 2018). It further envisages that area-based development (ABD) will transform existing areas (retrofit and redevelop), including slums, into better planned ones thereby improving liveability of the whole city. New areas (Greenfields) will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas. The Indian government committed to collaborate with states and local bodies in the implementation of the scheme and dedicated IMR 980,000 million for five years.

After several phases of screening, 100′ cities with diverse size, demographics, functional base, environmental and socio-economic characteristics have been selected across the length and breadth of the country (Fig. 1).

While SCM certainly shows a promising future through its inception guidelines and stated objectives, its progress in enhancing urban governance needs to be appraised with empirical facts and figures, against normative questions with which national urban policy and governance have been plagued; most fundamental being how would SCM address the prevailing governance issues in urban local bodies (ULB) that inter alia, include insufficient legal mandate, lack of trained planners, engineers, executives and ground staff, materials and equipment and most importantly the much required autonomy to generate and utilize their own funds. In doing so, does SCM empower, educate and include citizens in urban planning and management process, participation, sense of ownership, place making and urban identity? Additionally, do Indian smart cities enhance accountability, transparency, efficiency, real-time monitoring of services and funds associated with them? One would be further intrigued to know about how the mission would converge with existing government schemes or pressing public health related challenges like air pollution, personal transport modes and climate change.

A chronological review of several evaluation ‘ reports on this subject undertaken during 2017-18, conducted by both public and privately sponsored bodies, brings forth some crucial aspects of this mission being unfolded during its implementation.

First of all, SCM does not follow a standard definition of smart cities. The Smart City Guidelines keep it open to interpretation and aspiration of individual city, thereby leading to a general deviation in evaluating performance of cities for their information technology (IT) quotient. According to the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) assessment, the budget for IT in the top 60 cities is below 22 per cent (Anand et. al., 2018), which may render many of the projects under SCM being ‘unsmart’ as global definitions of smart city assume a high dependence on technology.

Secondly, there has been a basic concern about addressing public participation and urban equity objectives through SCM. The government has made attempts to justify involvement of people through cloud-sourcing information from smart phones which reveals public participation and technology dependence in recent years in the cities. Recent data of ministry shows investment in ABD projects as IN R 1642 million (80.8 per cent) concentrated in select enclaves, considerably surpassing those in pan city solutions amounting to INR 389,140 million (19.2 per cent, PTI, 2018). As the CPR report shows, sizes of the ABD vary from under 1 sq km (Aurangabad) to nearly 17 sq km (Coimbatore) whereas on an average an Indian smart city ABD lies at 4.9 sq km or 3 per cent of the city. Looking at the variation in the areal expanse of the selected smart cities in covering only 3.9 per cent area under ABD would not bring out much result. A greater focus on pan-city projects or increasing the coverage of ABDs would make significant improvement in quality of life for large number of people.

The recent findings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Urban Development (2018a) also reveal that timely and enhanced utilization of funds need to commensurate with funds allocated and released for smart city projects. The 23rd Report of the PSC stated a utilization of INR 9310 million and utilization certificates of [NR 14,690 million against the released funds of INR 105,040 million (Table 1). Committees have been set up to explore the underutilization of funds and monitor the financial incapacity of the municipal governments to carry on the centres’ flagship schemes (Kumar, 2018). One of the noted challenges in this regard is the shortage of urban planners. The committee also highlighted reports of project implementation at the local level, emphasizing the need to improve coordination between implementing agencies to realize intended benefits of SCM; to make it more visible to the public. It underscores that since schemes such as Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AM RUT) and Swachh Bharat are mandated to work on similar infrastructure and urban renal projects, it is imperative for municipal authorities to ensure greater cooperation between each programme.


Thus, it could be concluded that despite not having an internationally accepted definition of a smart city or a national urbanization policy in India, effective governance of smart cities holds immense potential to achieve multiple benefits of sustainability, systems efficiency, economic growth, participatory governance and better quality of life. Considering that implementation of the SCM is underway, there is sufficient room for the Ministry, state governments, special purpose vehicles and the civil society to work towards a more sustainable, inclusive and affordable pattern of urban development.

The eight states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura that constitute the northeastern region (NER) of India show great potential in emerging as a focal point for international trade because of their strategic location. About 98 per cent of these states’ borders merge with the international borders of either Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar or Nepal. Recent years have seen a significant number of investors being diverted to these states and therefore, their potential as nodes of future growth cannot be undermined (Roche, 2017; Cyrill, 2018).   

            As a part of the frontier during the colonial period, the NER was absorbed into the global economy and experienced a brief developmental spurt. In 1835, tea gardens were established in Assam. Following this, industrialization took roots in the early 1850s and the railway connectivity from Debrugarh to Chittagong became operational in the 1880s. soon an oil refinery was setup in Digboy in 1901.   

            However, the redrawing of the country’s boundary after independence in 1947 made the region landlocked which eventually led to the NERs peripheral position within the Indian nation-state. As a result, the situation changed dramatically and the NER became isolated from the mainland. Even though the region has an abundance of natural resources, possesses a rich cultural heritage, abundant skilled labour and vibrant neighbourhood, higher transportation cost and remoteness from markets resulted in economic isolation and contributed to the slow economic growth in the region. The physical isolation from the country’s mainland coupled with militancy, insurgencies and regional conflicts largely prevented the NER from achieving a staggering growth. The situation began to change when the country opened up its market post liberalization, in 1991.

            The government of India initiated the ‘Look East Policy’ (LEP) in the year 1991 with the aim of promoting economic growth by attracting foreign investments. The same has been rechristened as ‘Act East Policy’ (AEP) in 2014 as a part of the economic and strategic partnership with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The initiation of this partnership has provided a common market for India with special concern to the NER. Given the strategic location, the eight states of the NER may be developed as the base for India’s growing economic links with east and south east Asia. Thus, the ‘Act East’ can be considered a catalyst and may provide a ‘big push’ to the development of NER; reducing its isolation from the mainland.

Current Scenario of the Northeast India

The NER house about 3.77 per cent of the national population and occupies about 8 per cent of country’s total geographical area. The region performs poorly in terms of key economic region performs poorly in terms of key economic indicators; its per capita GDP being much lower than the rest of the country. Amongst the states in the NER, agriculture in Sikkim has the lowest contribution (12.3 per cent) to the gross state domestic product (GSDP), whereas industry in the state contributes the highest (55.8 per cent). On the other hand, in terms of social indicators, the NER conforms to the national average, with a sex ratio of 943 and an overall literacy rate of 74 per cent. However, a great variation is noticed within the NER states for different social indicators. While the sex ratio among the northeast states ranges from 890 (Sikkim) to 992 (Manipur), lowest literacy rate 65.4 per cent is recorded in Arunachal Pradesh and a highest of 91.3 per cent in Mizoram.

            As noted earlier, the spread of basic infrastructural services is quite poor in the region. People in the NER do not have access to good roads, healthcare services and the availability of power supply is inefficient as compared to the rest of India. Besides, the NER states suffer from inefficiency in the functioning of the service providers. Physical infrastructure such as transportation, communication, electricity and finance are limited and not distributed homogeneously in urban and rural areas. Presents the basic infrastructure and logistics indicators of the NER for 2014. While Assam has a road density of 367 km/1000 sq km, it is only 33 km/1000 sq km for Arunachal Pradesh. Similarly, the installed electricity per 10000 population is lowest (0.43) in Assam and highest (2.24) for Sikkim.

            Roads are of particular importance as they provide access to far out areas of the NER. The higher transportation cost has deterred the mobility to and from this region, which in turn has affected road development. The non-availability of road networks has to a great extent barred the region from the benefits of shared international boundaries.

            Industrialization has failed to take off in this neglected region. In relative terms, Assam is by far the largest industrialized state in the NER, having nearly 88 per cent of the total industrial units of the region. Nearly 74 per cent of the manufactured output of the registered manufacturing sector in the northeast (2014-15) originates in Assam, while, at the other end of the spectrum, Arunachal Pradesh shows no registered manufacturing industry. The northeastern states contributed 3.37 per cent to the gross value added in India (INR 916530 million) in 2014-15 (Annual Survey of Industries, 2015). Sikkim has seen a strong industrial growth between 2004-05 and 2014-15 as many pharmaceutical companies have significantly invested in the state.

Opportunities Under ‘Act East’ Policy

The setting up of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) in 2001 for these eight states may be considered an important milestone acting as a catalyst to its growth. The NER, which had once set into a vicious cycle of underdevelopment post-independence, started progressing in response to the policy initiatives taken by DoNER, though at a slow pace. This was mainly because of the time over-runs, paucity of available funds to complete the projects (DoNER, 2013). Though not much progress could be made in terms of the physical infrastructure, the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP) was successful in forming 494 natural resource management groups (NaRMGs), 1216 self help groups (SHGs) across 21212 households, in the six project districts. The reaffirmation of an ‘Act East’ policy may provide a direction for further socio-economic development desirable in the region. A large number of projects have been undertaken in different sectors such as infrastructure (power, road, railways, air connectivity, inland waterways, telecommunication and information technology), plantations, irrigation and flood control, tourism, human resource development education and health), handlooms and handicrafts, etc. in the NER.

            The government of India with Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Japanese government have started several infrastructure projects of which East-West Corridor, Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) project and the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway may be mentioned. All these are dedicated to improve connectivity with the mainland as well as with the neighbouring countries.

            The East-West Corridor, part of Golden Quadrilateral project in India, is near completion. The KMMTT project, formulated to connect Kolkata Port with Sittwe in Myanmar, is estimated to be operational by 2019-20, India has ploughed in additional resources to complete the Trilateral Highway, which will connect India with Myanmar and Thailand. Thus, NERs improved performance in a medium to long-run, when the proposed projects are completed, is highly awaited.    

            In addition to road, railway connectivity too has improved in the region. Most capitals of the NER states are being connected by a rail network to major cities of mainland India. Agartala and Silchar now have a broad gauge railway line and are connected to Kolkata and Delhi. Agartala-Delhi Rajdhani Express was launched on Octoer 25, 2018 and is expected to be extended upto Imphal by 2020 (Ministry of Railways, Government of India). Recent developments in the railway system have given way to integration and connectivity in the northeast.  

            The NER faces a vast array of logistic handicaps, which is intended to be eliminated through the new ‘Act East Policy’. The region also has a huge potential to emerge as a hub for health services. Establishing health facilities in the region can attract overseas patients from Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. In Imphal, for instance, Shija Hospital has become a medical destination for people from Myanmar. Even the tourism sector has a vast potential and can provide a great impetus to the regional economy.

            Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, is the industrial and business hub of the NER, which has set an example of connectivity-driven integration. The government of Assam has opened a new Act East Policy Affairs Department. Some reputed companies like Patanjali Ayurved have invested INR 13,000 million in Assam with a promise to generate employment for 5000 people and benefit 100,000 farmers. Dabur is investing INR 2500 million to set up its biggest manufacturing unit in central Assam, while ITC Ltd, is likely to invest INR 5000 million into its fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, especially in the food processing industry in Assam (The Telegraph, 2013). Guwahati is the new destination of India’s premier hospital chains; investments have come from Apollo, Sankar Netralaya, Narayana Health, Fortis, etc. International hotel chains like Taj Vivanta and Radisson have already established resorts and hotels in the city (De, 2017).  

            Similarly, Manipur is setting up a township near Moreh, which shares its boundary with Myanmar. A special economic zone (SEZ) and a food park is proposed in Thoubal, near Imphal. Once completed, this could emerge as a major food processing center in the region. Exports from this food park to Myanmar have already begun.

            Through the ‘Act East’ policy economic relationship seems to be improving between Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal too. New Bangladeshi consulates have been established in Guwahati and Agartala. Also, Bhutan and Nepal are to closely follow suit. Under the ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik’ (UDAN) Draft Scheme Document for International Air Connectivity, the Union Civil Aviation Ministry has reposed to connect Guwahati with six international destinations (Available at: https://bit.y/2Eidi8) and in response, Air India along with other private players are operating between Guwahati and Dhaka.    

            Production networks with Bangladesh and Myanmar and the rest of India in agriculture, horticulture, processed food, etc. are other potential avenues to bring in dynamism to the economic sector of the NER. The NER is expanding production networks in cement, processed food and horticulture with countries like Bangladesh (CUTS and FICCI, 2017). The NER has been traditionally popular in handicrafts, tea, bamboo, spices and processed food products and can gain fillip with the economic growth in the region. The prospects of NER in reaping benefits from increased trade and economic cooperation between India and with east and Southeast Asia depend on the complementarities between availability of products in the NER and their demand in the international market.     



In order to really reap the benefits of the ‘Act East’ policy, the NER states have to first strengthen their internal connectivity. Thereafter, NER’S integration with the mainland with better infrastructure and connectivity is likely to offer enough opportunities for the holistic development of the region.

            ‘Act East’ is a policy, not the panacea. Once investment picks up, the NER is expected to rise to glory. However, the lacunae include the prioritization of a just a few projects in the NER, which is clearly not enough. Also, the government needs to boost incentives that shape local economices–promoting industries and the service sector. Adequate attention towards tourism, education and the health sector can offer advantages that have hitherto not been reaped. For this to come to realization, the onus is on the government to create a more regulatory space and provide a facilitating environment for the involvement of the private sector as well.   


The relationship between people and territory is mediated through the institution of state, which has been rarely static in human history. Nation-states emerged since the middle of the 18th century and spread widely across the globe after the Second World War. They, however, re-defined the earlier relationship between people and state from sovereign and subjects to a new association; defined as citizenship. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the prominent thinkers, who articulated the idea of the nation-state through a social contract theory, argued that the power of state is vested in its people and relationship between people and the state must be governed by certain rights and duties as embodied in the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity (Ritchie, 1891). He also believed that democracy was the best way of ensuring general welfare while maintaining individual freedom under the rule of law. However, the relationship between people and the state, as premised on the principles of citizenship, has not remained fixed, especially in the backdrop of increasing globalization in the post-war period.

Migration and Citizenship

While international migration brought noncitizens face to face with the state, internal migration, where populace relocate their homes either temporarily or permanently in different regions of the same state, challenged the very principles of citizenship as the migrants often lost the freedom of choosing a life of dignity at the place to where they migrated. Further, the politics of ‘sons of the soil’ and the reactions based on xenophobia led to the emergence of nativism, undermining the very idea of citizenship. It is to be emphasized that the ideas of nation-state, citizenship, nativism and xenophobia are closely related. It is generally argued that migration swamps the so called native culture and reduces it to a minority. In India, there is a sentiment evoked in the name of cultural rights and migrants are blamed for snatching away jobs that are held to ‘legitimately’ belong to the natives. Issues like agitation of the members of Shiv Sena group against wealthy business communities and professionals from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the labour class from North India bear testimony to the fact that nativism of ‘sons of the soil’ doctrine often overarch citizenship in the country (Pal. 2014).

It may also be argued that there is a distinction between cultural privilege and cultural rights. The idea of cultural privilege cannot be a defining criterion of citizenship because it negates the principles of equality and justice. On the other hand, protection and promotion of cultural rights fulfil the principles of citizenship. When the northeast migrants were attacked in Delhi and Bangalore some years back, it was a violation of cultural and civic rights which the state was supposed to defend.

Scholars also make a distinction between formal and substantive citizenship. While formal citizenship refers to being a member of a nation-state, substantive citizenship connotes whether their civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights as citizens are being fulfilled or not. It is not just formal citizenship that matters but also whether or not the state is able to ensure and provide access to substantive citizenship is a matter that needs exploration. In this context, the debate over citizenship and its relationship with poverty, lack of education and access to healthcare matters. Scholars have also argued that the granting of formal citizenship does not ensure fulfillment of substantive citizenship rights (Holston and Appadurai, 1996). Paradoxically, we also find that the national borders of India are officially open to non-citizens, through the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), who are allowed to enjoy various privileges. At present, OCIs are foreign nationals. Who were erstwhile Indians but abandoned Indian citizenship in order to settle in other countries and it goes without saying that they are one of the socially privileged groups. Once OCI status is granted they may enjoy all privileges in India except the right to vote and being able to own agricultural property. Thus, it is indicative that borders do not matter for the privileged. In other words, the fulfillment of substantive citizenship rights is not contingent upon the formal citizenship. In the is backdrop, the paper examines the nature of Assam crisis and presents the demographic facts on immigration in a historical perspective. It shows that the methodology adopted in identifying non-citizens in Assam is palpably flawed.

The Assam Crisis

The immigration problem in Assam has a long history; dating back to the colonial era. The problem was so persistent that the Parliament of India passed the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 to deal with it. A National Register of Citizens (NRC0 was prepared in the country in 1951, as part of the 1951 Census (Roychoudhury, 1981). Assam is the first state where NRC is again being prepared after 1951, in order to identify illegal immigrants in 2018. The draft list of NRC was released in public domain on July 30, 2018.

The country has seen an unparalleled uproar in history since then (Singh, 2018). About 4 million people were rendered illegal migrants whose names were not included in the final draft of NRC. The political parties jumped into the fray leading to polarization, which will have far reaching consequences not only for the coming years but for decades. As is known, the whole exercise was carried out under the direction of the Supreme Court (SC) of India. It is hoped that the SC will find an appropriate and just solution as the matter deals with the idea of citizenship and human rights. While nation states grant rights and protection to citizens, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, also grants rights and protection to undocumented or irregular migrants, refugees and stateless populations who are non-citizens. In the UN ’5 parlance, the term illegal migration was replaced by undocumented migration and more recently by the term irregular migration on the ground that human beings cannot be legal or illegal but the act of movement could be so. Notwithstanding, the migration predicament of Assam is larger than the refugee crisis in Europe in the present day. It is a sensitive subject that deals with a gamut of issues related to human existence, dignity, rights and protection of culture. It has acquired serious con notations as immigration is pitted against the collective sense of identity and politics. The sentiments invoked on the pretext that Assamese language and culture have been losing their majoritarian identity in the wake of irregular migration are not substantive enough to defend it. A similar process in underway in other parts of India as well. In Jharkhand, the tribal majority has been reduced to one-fourth of the state’s population. There are hundreds of primitive tribes on the verge of extinction. The list is long. On the other hand, it is also true that the people of Assam have suffered enormously on the issue of irregular migration over the decades. Long back. Myron Weiner (1983) argued that effective border control is the only natural solution for the persistent irregular migration from Bangladesh into Assam. It is a fact that the state should have acted long before reaching a point of no return.

The illegal migration in Assam is hyped on the basis of religious and linguistic demographics. It is generally portrayed that Muslim population has been growing faster and the share of Assamese population vis-à-vis Bengali has been declining. It is important to highlight that immigration is not is important to highlight that immigration is not the sole criteria of projecting such demographics. The annual growth rate of the total population of Assam during 2001-11 (1.58 per cent) was lower than the all India growth rate (1.64 per cent) according to 2011 Census (Census of India 2011). This is consistent with the fact that after 1991 Assam has also turned out to be a net-out migrating state. The 2001 Census showed that about 7 lakh persons from Assam live and work in other states of India (Lusome and Bhagat, 2010). Such data from 2011 Census is not yet available. There is also no empirical proof to support that immigration has impoverished any nation or region. On the other hand, the theory of mobility transition shows that when a nation moves in the trajectory of development, it transits from a nation of emigration to a nation of immigration (Zelinsky, 1971). Assam is not a developed state of India and there is no reason to believe that the state has received huge immigration in the recent past. On the contrary, Assam being a net out-migrating state as shown by 2001 Census, is consistent with mobility transition theory. The problem of Assam is historical and this may be seen in the context of refugee migration in the event of partition of the country in 1947 and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The Census of India also provides data on immigration which need to be looked into as well. The Census of India 1991 (1981 Census was not conducted in Assam) shows that out of 3.3 million migrants born in Bangladesh, 0.21 million were residing in Assam. In the 2001 Census, the figure for those living in Assam but born in Bangladesh dropped to 0.16 million compared to 3.7 million for the whole of India. Data on immigration from 2011 Census has not been released by the Registrar General of India till now though seven years have elapsed since the census was undertaken. As the Census of India is a part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, this data should not be set aside or suppressed. It must be borne in mind that numbers have the potential to create xenophobia leading to discrimination and violence and some intellectuals have conjectured a number as high as 10 million illegal immigrants in Assam (Dasgupta, 2018). However, if there are problems with the census data this could be debated and methods may be improved once it is brought out in the public domain.

On the other hand, methods used in the NRC in Assam raise many questions. It is based on the production of documentary proof. It may be noted that Assam is a state where one-fourth males and one-third of females are illiterate (Census of India, 2011). The documentary proof for NRC is primarily based on legacy data. Legacy data refers to the names of the inhabitants of Assam who were enumerated in the NRC of 1951 based on 1951 Census, or whose names have appeared in the electoral rolls until the midnight of March 24, 1971 as per the Assam Accord. Later on some more documents were added to claim citizenship before the stipulated deadline. One has to trace their ancestors based on the specified documents in order to be included in the present NRC 1951 based on 1951 Census was free from any omission or coverage error. The history of census in India shows this is not the case; the same is true for the electoral rolls as well. The legacy data should have also taken into account the 1961 and 1971 Censuses as well in order to make the NRC more robust. However, this has not been done. The application of March 25, 1971 as the benchmark does not appear to be reasonable after the passage of more than four decades. All those born in Assam after 1971 will be of age up to 47 years at present. How is it that those born in Assam, but do not have proper documental support will be illegal migrants? Should we punish children for the illegal acts of parents or grandparents? Further for many women, it is difficult to trace the family tree after leaving their parental households after leaving their parental households after marriage. Many do not have marriage certificates as well. This may lead to a large number o women being excluded from the NRC list. Also several cases reported in daily newspapers allege that while some members of the same family are included in the NRC, others are not. The NRC authorities and the Supreme Court of India have a huge task at hand and an enormous challenge ahead to ensure that women, children, trans gender, internal migrants and indigenous people are not unduly excluded from the list of NRC.

Another concern is where the people ousted from the final NRC will go. Will they be a stateless population? If they are divested of their political and economic rights, it may be tantamount to creating a situation akin to neo-apartheid. Some scholars suggested redistribution them in various other states of India where there is a shortage of labour (Aiyar, 2018). But it is to be recollected that we have not been able to solve the problem of the stateless Chakma population, who are to the tune of about 50,000 living in the state of Arunanchal Pradesh for more than five decades. It is important to point out that India is not a signatory to the United Nations’ Refugee Convention, but is party to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 which is premised on the principle–leave no one behind.

It is a difficult task to make a choice when the matter evokes emotive issues of culture and language where rationalism often gets trampled. Yet, the future depends upon rational choice–a passionate debate, careful scrutiny based on a progressive ideology and a just methodology. There is little hope that Assam will come out from this muddle amidst its challenging march towards prosperity and progress.


Migration and new forms of motilities such as refugee and irregular migration in the international context and seasonal and temporary migration and displacement in the national context destabilizes the very sedentary idea of citizenship. The emerging outcome is that the idea of citizenship is being reshaped and national borders are economically and politically redefined. The European Union is one such evolving example where national borders have lost significance. Further, since the 1970s, as many as 84 countries actors the globe have allowed dual citizenship (Siaplay, 2014). The Government of India has also provided OCI status to erstwhile citizens and their descendants who are now passport holders of other countries. We have all the reason to imagine that the vexed situation in Assam resulting from the irregular migration will find apolitical solution as South Asia moves up the ladder of prosperity and economic integration. Until the rigid sense of border prevails, we should try our best to minimize the tragedy of the people of Assam.