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Majuli plight touches envoy

Guwahati, Dec. 14: The US ambassador to India, Nancy J. Powell, today said she would take up the issue of Majuli with her government to see if anything could be done to prevent erosion on the world’s largest river island.

“Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi mentioned Majuli at our meeting yesterday,” she told reporters this morning. “It’s high up on his mind.”

Similar measures had also been adopted in Missouri to control floods that would wash away people’s homes, she said. “The corps of army engineers had done this in the US and we will have to see if they have the technology now,” Powell said.

“We would also be willing to take people from Assam to the US to study the methods followed there should the state government here wish so,” US consul-general Dean Thompson, who accompanied the ambassador, said.

Powell, who was travelling with senior officials, was accompanied by a team of US business leaders.

“While it would be up to the US industries to choose the areas that they would want to invest in the Northeast and Assam, the areas of interest that could be broadly outlined would include infrastructure, healthcare, tourism, telecom and information technology,” Powell said. “Land acquisition and power are among the issues that would have to be considered,” she added.

Asked about the security measures that important Indian dignitaries had been subjected to at US airports, Powell said she had personally issued a number of letters of apology to dignitaries who had been held up at airports, while the list of people who were allowed privileges had also been expanded. “All the US citizens have to go through airport security and no one is allowed special privileges,” she said. “That is not the case here. So, expectations are different.”

Powell, who was on her second visit here, having come here 20 years ago as consul-general, said the Northeast was at a “critical juncture” given the opening up of regions such as Myanmar, and the fact that the seven states shared international borders with five countries.

Asked about travel advisories that the US administration issued about travel by American citizens to Northeast India, she said while the protection and safety of US citizens was always accorded top priority, “US citizens always decide for themselves where they want to travel. Travel advisories are just advisories.”

On big dams in Arunachal Pradesh and the effect it would have on the downstream areas such as Assam, especially in light of the fact that the US itself had decommissioned some big river dams, Thompson said, “While the US did not have eyes on every individual project, finding a balance between development and ecological preservation was a challenge”.

“While power is an issue, there are also alternative sources of energy,” Powell said.


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