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World Bank grants a $37 million additional loan for Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project

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Project Signing: Government of India and World Bank Sign $37 Million Additional Financing Agreement for Himachal Pradesh Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project – 40,000 Farmer Households to Benefit

NEW DELHI, November 20 2012 – The government of India, the government of Himachal Pradesh and the World Bank today signed a $37 million additional credit agreement for the ongoing Himachal Pradesh Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project to support the government of Himachal Pradesh build sustainable watershed treatment models.

The original $60 million Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project is aimed at reversing the process of degradation of the natural resource base, improve productivity, and raise rural household incomes. So far around 6,151 water harvesting tanks, 1,093 ponds/tanks, 287 dams, 263 lift/gravity irrigation schemes, 43 small underground tanks used for irrigation — also known as makowal structures — and 203 km of irrigation channels have been developed under the project. The benefits from these structures have reached some 100,000 families.

The project has converted about 9,000 ha of rainfed area into irrigated land through watershed management techniques. At the mid-term review (November 9-18, 2009), there was an increase in yields of paddy (236 percent), maize (163 percent), and wheat (90 percent), which has surpassed the end-of-project target of 50 percent. The increase in milk yield was 11 percent. It has also played a vital role in reversing the degradation of natural resources and has brought about significant increase in biomass and water availability in project areas, allowing expansion of irrigated lands with subsequent improvements in agriculture yield and household income.

The additional funding will consolidate some of the gains made in the original project by adding another 102 contiguous gram panchayats (village councils) to the existing 602 gram panchayats that fall within the same micro-catchment area where the Project is operational, but are not included in the on-going project; consolidate drainage line treatment in areas that fall within the same drainage line that are already being treated; consolidate some of the agri-businesses which can be replicated by other projects; and increase the financial allocation to support cost overruns, due to price escalation. Such additional watershed treatment for panchayats that fall in the same river basins is expected to maximize impact and ensure the long term hydrological sustainability of the region.

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The agreement for the Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project was signed by Prabodh Saxena on behalf of the government of India, Bharathi Sihag, Principle Secretary, Forest, on behalf of the government of Himachal Pradesh and Michael Haney, Operations Advisor, World Bank, India on behalf of the World Bank.

At the mid-term review, overall household incomes rose by 13 percent. This is largely being attributed to the Project’s extension services, in particular, improved agricultural production technologies and market linkages. About 10,000 farmers benefited from cultivating and marketing high value crops, such as vegetables and spices. The Project grouped 1,500 farmers into milk federations and established links with milk chilling plants.

“The ongoing project has achieved many milestones on its path to achieving its desired objectives. We hope this additional financing to Himachal Pradesh will help the state scale up its efforts at enhancing its natural resource base and contribute to improving the livelihoods of the people living in rainfed areas,” said Michael Haney, Operations Advisor, World Bank, India.

In this project, producer companies will add value to agriculture products and improve their marketing capacity. Revolving funds will provide capital to small farmers and their groups to invest in machinery, tools and inputs that will generate a return on investment and, therefore, become a source of further investments in similar items, in a revolving fashion. Interventions to reduce erosion and water runoff through check dams, biomass (planting grass and trees), building water harvesting structures, and putting in place a monitoring system to manage the overall hydrological (water) balance, will help increase the overall availability of water, intensify irrigation, thereby, improving farmers’ incomes. Scaling up vermi compositing and other sustainable agriculture practices will help increase the amount of organic matter in the soil and increase the water retention capacity of the soil in making agriculture sustainable and productive.

“While this project will have the same approach and strategy of the on-going project, we hope the focus on new activities will help consolidate incomes and generate further employment among the people of the state,” said Norman Piccioni, Lead Rural Development Specialist and the Project’s Task Team Leader. “The inclusion of additional gram panchayats will also help in treating contiguous gram panchayats and drainage lines, which will subsequently ensure proper distribution of water along the water sources – springs and streams,” he added.

The Project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm – which provides interest-free loans with 25 years to maturity and a grace period of five years.
Press Release: World Bank

Misc News/Press Release

Video: Fire Wreaks Havoc at Solan Mall Road

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Solan Fire Break out 2021

Solan-A fire broke out at the congested Solan Mall Road today evening, which engulfed about three shops including a medical store and garment and shoe shops. According to the initial report received from the district administration, the fire reportedly started from a medical store, which was closed.

People first noticed smoke rising from inside the building and informed the owner of the shop and fire services. By the time, fire tenders reached the spot, the fire had spread considerably to a large part of the multi-story building. Sounds of explosions from inside the medical store caused a panic among the adjoining shopping mall and people present on the scene. These sounds of explosions reportedly came from bottles of sanitisers and other flammables products kept inside the medical store.

No loss of life was reported.

According to a report, two fire hydrants installed at the Solan Mall Road for such emergency situation did not work, which led to delay in extinguishing the fire. Meanwhile, property worth lakhs in three to four shops turned to ash. It took over two hours to extinguish the fire with the help of locals. 

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Ajay Kumar, had arrived at the spot. The exact losses were yet to be assessed. It’s pertinent to mention that the Solan Mall is a congested place with a large number of shops and the fire could have easily turned into a bigger disaster if it were not controlled. 

The cause of the fire is believed to be a short-circuit. But it would be possible to cite the exact cause only after an inquiry, if conducted. More information was awaited.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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Misc News/Press Release

Himachal Records 81% Turnout in 3rd Phase of PRI Polls, Congress Makes a Come Back in Theog MC after 20 Years

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third phase of Panchayat elections in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The third phase of elections to Panchayati Raj Institutes in Himachal Pradesh recorded around 81 percent polling on January 21, 2021. The elections were held in 1137 Gram Panchayats in this phase. The highest 94 percent polling was registered in Lodhi Majra Panchayat of Nalagarh development block in Solan district. This information was released by a spokesperson of HP Election Commission

District-wise, Sirmaur recorded 85% turnout, followed by Solan (85%) Kullu (84%),Chamba (82.8%), Mandi (82.7%), Una (81.1%), Shimla (82%),Una (81%), Bilaspur (80.3%), Hamirpur (78.1%), Kangra (78%), and Kinnaur (70%).

 Further, 48 COVID-19 patients and persons in isolation also cast their votes.

The Spokesperson said that the poll was held peacefully and there was no report of any untoward incident in the state.

Counting of votes for Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti will be held on January 22, 2021, at block headquarters.

Congress made a come back to Theog Municipal Council after 20 years. While Vivek Thapar was elected as the Chairman of the MC, Reen Roy was elected as the Vice-Chairman. Congress has already registered wins in Rohru and Rampur MCs and Chopal, Kotkhai and Sunni Nagar panchayats.

Theog MC Polls 2021

Congress After Registering Victory in Theog MC Elections

The HPCC chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore, while speaking to media persons yesterday, said that of the total seven Wards of the Theog MC, Congress has claimed victory on four wards while remaining three Wards went to independent candidates. Congress alleged that BJP had left no stone unturned to pressurize, lure, and threaten elected members to gain their support. 

Rathore mocked at the defeat of BJP MP’s bother in Mandi district. Further, the candidate in Ghumarwin of Bilaspur – home district of BJP Chief Jagat Prakash Nadda-  had also faced defeat, Rathore said. BJP candidate in Sujanpur – home to Union Minister for State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur-could also not register a victory and lost, he said.

Congress also registered a victory in elections to Parwanoo MC. Kuldeep Singh Rathore, said that winning candidate Nisha Sharma joined Congress yesterday. She had won twice from the same Ward on BJP ticket. This time, she was denied ticket and fought the elections as an independent candidate. 

Parwanoo Counciloor Nisha sharma

Nisha Sharma Joins Congress

Rathore alleged that the government has been trying to threaten Nisha by registering a fake case of illegal construction. Similarly, husband of Chandrawati – another Congress councilor in Parwanoo- who runs a depot was fined wrongfully yesterday, Rathore alleged.   

While BJP has been making claims of victory on the majority of seats, Congress had been terming it as a bluff.  Also, it had been alleging BJP of misusing government machinery. Independent candidates are being bought and allurements are being given to winning Congress candidates, Rathore alleged.  

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