My Impression from New Delhi

It is my first time to come to India. I arrived at the Indra Gandhi International Airport at around 8:30pm, on Sunday, 06.05.2012. The airport is a modern facility. I was traveling with other 18 regional experts from the Mekong River Basin countries such as China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. We were picked up by the staff of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an Indian Think-Tank, the Co-organizer and Co-Sponsor of the Mekong-Ganga Dialogue. My flight was via Bangkok and waiting time was six hours for connection. Flight time from Bangkok to Delhi was just 3 Hours and 40 minutes. Time difference to Cambodia is 1:30 minutes (behind Phnom Penh’s time).

We were riding with the organized taxis in group to the Ahuja Residency, where we will stay for the next few days. A standard room costs around 90 USD. In Phnom Penh, it would cost between 20-30 USD. There are big trees and large roads along the way. Though, it is already late in the evening, but the temperature is still high, hot and dry. I was warned by the Indian Embassy staff in Phnom Penh during visa application; that it will be hot in May (over 40 degree Celsius). But, the organizer told us, that we are lucky. This week will not that hot and the temperature is between 30-35 degree Celsius, is similar to Cambodia in the dry season, March-April. However, it turned out, that in the last two days of our stay it was higher than 40 degree. It is really hot and it explains to me why Indians are usually darker than we are.

The main aim of the Mekong-Ganga Dialogue, 7-9 May, 2012, is “to bring together the scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and other concerned with water related governance and its democratization, from the Ganga and Mekong regions, to share their experiences and to explore areas of fruitful mutual collaboration in the areas of water, food and energy”. Around 40 participants attended this conference, half from Mekong and half from the Indian-Ganga side.

My Indian lunch

The Mekong River, 4,900 Km, is the twelfth longest river in the world. The Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) is home to 326 million populations. Ganga, 2,500 Km, is the most populous river basin in the world. It has about 655 million people. The river has its origin in the Himalaya and is flowing via Nepal, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh and to the sea.

My first impressions of New Delhi:

  • Too many people, many (very old and new) cars and to some distant chaotic and dangerous traffics;
  • Large roads, large trees and many birds. It is amazing for such a big city, that they still have large trees with lot of birds;
  • It looks similar to other Asian large cities: not very clean (rubbish in many places, people sleeping on the sidewalks, poor sections etc), not orderly;
  • Big contrast between rich lifestyle and (extreme) poverty;
  • Food is different: curry, curry, curry….with lot of ingredients. Since I like exploring new things/food, I do not have any problem with Indian food, like other friends;
  • People start to work late: official working hours are from 10am to 6pm, with one hour lunch break. Lunch is normally between 13:00-14:00 and dinner would not start before 8:30pm, usually much later; People told me that there are three seasons in India: hot, hotter and hottest. Some people told me that main reason for having dinner quite late is because of the heat at day time. The late dinner contribute also to fat concentration for many (fatty) Indians;
  • Not like most Southeast Asians, who are shyer and not talkative, Indians (South Asians) are very talkative and enjoy arguments. Their English is difficult to understand. But, they are very nice and friendly people.

My first Indian beer

I would like to say thank you to the organizers (M-Power, AusAID and ORF) for inviting me to participate in this conference. I participated actively in the discussion by sharing field experience from Cambodia, presenting on food security issues in the Mekong Sub-Region, co-facilitating and facilitating plenary and working group sessions.

The outcome is as follow: continue and enhance the dialogue program in different forms and on regular basis by covering the three main themes (food, water and energy), inviting other stakeholders, media representatives, policy makers, think tanks from concerned countries (of the Ganga river basin) to join; enhance Research fellowship program on the Mekong and Ganga; improve data management and encourage open sharing; sharing experience of institutional arrangements (MRC), good and bad practices; expand advocacy research topics etc. The next Dialogue would take place in one of the countries of the Mekong Region, probably early next year. One of our Indian friends put it in this way: “we met as stranger and leave as friends”.


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