The Centre plans to safeguard the fast-eroding Majuli island — Asia’s largest riverine island — using research carried out on floating ‘B4’ boat labs along the Brahmaputra river. Majuli, the first island district of the country, was once 1200 square kilometres but due to excessive erosion has since shrunk to under 500 square kilometres. It is also known for being the seat of Assam’s Vaishnava monasteries.
‘B4’ – the ‘Brahmaputra Biodiversity and Biology Boat’, work on which will commence by December, will initially cover the region from Pasighat, Dibrugarh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in the state of Assam, said officials at the Department of Biotechnology. The department has set aside Rs. 50 crore as an initial investment on the project.
The large barge (or boat) which will be set up on the river will be a “well-equipped laboratory” with cold storage facilities for holding samples, along with multiple satellite boats or rafts that will venture into shallower and narrower parts of the river to lift samples.
The project will “constantly monitor” the impact of various environmental and anthropological factors that affect the river and conduct research to mitigate the effects. The interdisciplinary focus, the work plan for which is developed with IIT Guwahati as the nodal agency, will also aim at a thorough study of freshwater resources of North East India.
Rs. 50-crore Phyto-pharma plant mission has been set up to conserve medicinal plants. A frugal microscope ‘Foldscope’ assembled from simple components will be distributed in various schools and colleges across the northeastern states.