Guwahati: India Institute of Technology Guwahati in collaboration with Asian Confluence hosted a half-day consultation cum dissemination workshop on “Acting East: Water and linked Livelihoods – Learning from the Mekong Region” today (6th August 2019) on its campus. In follow-up to the project titled “Mekong-Brahmaputra Conversation”, implemented in 2018 by the Asian Confluence, with support from Heinrich Boll Stiftung India, the workshop aimed to disseminate the learning and best practice cases documented from the Mekong basin in South East Asia in four North Eastern states of India, namely Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
The workshop aimed at facilitating knowledge-sharing, interaction and brainstorming among participants to:
1. Disseminating learning, outputs and outcomes from Mekong-Brahmaputra Conversation project in the North East
2. Engaging local stakeholders to seek inputs and ideas on how to adapt the learning and best practice cases from Mekong basin
3. Develop recommendations and ideas for adapting the learning given the local conditions, needs and challenges of the North East region, to lead to sustainable solutions, which can be implemented in the local context at a later
4. Identify potential partners, collaborators and champions who can help in implementing specific interventions in future
The workshop had participation from experts/academia, the state government, civil society organisations, opinion leaders, and researchers working on natural resource management in the North East region.
Several leading experts presented their views at this workshop at IIT Guwahati. The speakers included:
– Mr. Prithviraj Nath, Senior Fellow, Asian Confluence, Meghalaya, India
– Mr. Sabyasachi Dutta, Executive Director, Asian Confluence, Meghalaya, India
– Key officials from the Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Tourism, Government of Assam
– Prof. T G Sitaram, Director, IIT Guwahati
– Prof. Chandan Mahanta, Professor and Head, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Guwahati
– Ms Sudeshna Gupta, Research scholar, IIT Guwahati
Prof. Chandan Mahanta, Head, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Guwahati, opened the workshop with a welcome address on “Brahmaputra: Seeking Dynamic Solution To a dynamic River”. He presented a pictorial journey along Brahmaputra highlighting importance of its diversity and hydroecology. He also advocated the development of an IT enabled basin scale smart Brahmaputra towards having a sustainable basin scale organization for the complex river.
Setting the context for this workshop and welcoming the delegates to the workshop at IIT Guwahati, Mr. Sabyasachi Dutta, Executive Director, Asian Confluence, Meghalaya, India, said, “Asian confluence is not a technical organization established in 2013. Besides the waterways, we are connected by road from Delhi IMT (India Myanmar Thailand) highway. Water is at the lowest denomination while economy is highest. SE Asian region can we learn from each other. We should rather view the regions as confluence of water.”
This was followed by a special address by Prof. TG Sitharam, Director, IIT Guwahati, where he discussed the idea of imparting sustainable philosophy in water resource management and said, “We need to look for solutions for Brahmaputra by reducing its sediment load, reduce erosion, recharge groundwater and also maintain environmental flow of the river. We need a sustainable Brahmaputra.”
During the presentation on Water, Tourism and linked livelihoods: Case Studies and possible learning from the Mekong region being showcased at the workshop, Mr. Prithviraj Nath, Senior Fellow, Asian Confluence, Meghalaya, India, said, “The key learning from Mekong in tourism sector is to build tourism experiences and facilitate benefits sharing mechanism with particular reference to community driven mechanism. Create infrastructure to match national theme, Involving women and empower them, Initiate unique engagement ideas- planting a tree, Promotion of local cuisine and culture, Explore sustainable livelihood, Natural resource management, Using natural and sustainable sue of plant to reclaim soils.”
The workshop was followed by a round table discussion. The key outcomes of this discussion were:
· Grass root level implementation of projects
· Use tourism as a tool for conserve. Promote a high value tourism in a sustainable way. We need to learn from Mekong to promote our own culture and local materials focus on positive tourism
· We need to learn more managerial tactics to execute our work. Fishery and tourism will be our key focus areas.
· Learning from Mekong and implementing on Brahmaputra Basin without losing the influence of local culture
· Promote community led initiative as a part of tourism industry empowering people in a holistic manner both socially and economically
· Identifying unique ecotourism hotspot
· Promoting pisciculture and encouraging greater agenda of blue economy