Thursday, May 30, 2019

2019 Global Youth Video Competition: Last date to apply - 28 July 2019!

The UNDP-implemented GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) has announced its 2019 Global Youth Video Competition.

This year, the fifth edition of the video competition aims to mobilize global youth around the Climate Action Summit organized in Sept 2019 by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

The competition is led by the Secretariats of the three Rio Conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in partnership with the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, and Television for the Environment (TVE).

Please note the following conditions:

  • Entrants must be between 18 and 30 years of age + should submit a maximum 3-minute video by 28 July 2019 on one of the themes outlined below;
  • Judging panels composed of representatives of the three Rio Convention secretariats will pre-select a short list of videos in each category based on the criteria of content, innovation, originality, impact, and technical expertise;
  • Pre-selected videos will then be posted online to be voted on by the public;
  • One winner will be selected per category. The three winners will attend and screen their films at the UNFCCC COP25 in Santiago, Chile, in Dec 2019;
  • Winning videos will also be screened in front of a global audience at the UNCCD COP14 in New Delhi, India, in Sept 2019.

The three themes are as follows:

For further information and to apply online, please visit:

So folks, start preparing for your entries.  Let us know if we can help us in building ideas.  

Best wishes,

Ranjan Panda
#Youth4Water campaign

Water Initiatives, Odisha
Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)
Country Manager for India, Climate Scorecard Project


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Cyclone Fani SITREP from Odisha as on 7th May 2019


• 05 Nos. 400 KV towers, 27 Nos. of 220 KV towers, 21 Nos. 130 KV towers have been damaged in the cyclone. 04 numbers of 220 KV Grids at Chandaka, Bidanasi, Samagra, Mendhasala and 4 numbers of 132 KV Grid at Puri, Nimapada, Mancheswar and Ransinghpur have been damaged.
• 5030 Kms. of 33 KV lines, 38613 Kms. of 11 KV lines, 11077 nos. of distribution transformers, and 79485 Kms. of LT lines damaged.
• In Puri district extensive damages have occurred to all kutcha houses. Structures of temporary street vendors have been completely damaged. 160 nos. of people injured and admitted to hospital for treatment. Special Circuit House Puri, Office and Residence of SP and Collector have been badly damaged like many other buildings.
• Huge numbers of trees have been uprooted resulting in disruption of road communication. Khordha and Bhubaneswar city have been severely affected.
• In Bhubaneswar 03 persons injured and hospitalized.
• Power supply snapped due to uprooting of electricity poles, damage to substations and transmission lines.
• Telecom towers have been affected resulting in cellular and telephone network down in wide area. All telephone and cell phones are down in Puri district. Telephone and mobile connectivity has also been severely affected in Khordha including Bhubaneswar city.
• Summer crops, orchards, plantations devastated in a large scale.
• Traffic was disrupted in all the PWD roads of Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada due to up-rooted trees, debris and electric poles.
• 1031 number of public health facilities (MC & H/ DHH/ SDH/ CHCs/ PHCs/ Sub-Centers) damaged.
• 5244 number of Primary School Buildings and 547 number of secondary school buildings damaged. 
• 980.69 km. of River/ Saline Embankments have been damaged.
• 50% of the plants have been damaged in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Jajpur and Paradeep.
• 65 no. of Cashew fields in Khurdha, Cuttack, and Jajpur damaged.
• 180 number of Higher Education Institutions severely & 90 numbers of HEIs partially damaged.
• 227 no. of breaches, 5596 kms length of road, 326 no. of culverts have been damaged in PWD roads. 556 no. of roads blocked due to uprooted trees, electric poles & wires, cyclone debris.
• 9693.25 kms. of RD roads and 4610 buildings have been affected.
3. Action Taken:
• Clearing of roads is going on. 
• Power restoration process is in full swing.
• Road communication in Ganjam and Gajapti completely restored. Road clearance and restoration works in other districts including Bhubaneswar city is going on.
• Considering the serious disruption of electricity supply, road communication, telephone and mobile connectivity, additional support has been rushed for immediate restoration. Additional teams for road clearance, police for Law and Order, distribution of dry food such as Chuda and Gud, Polythene mobilized to the district.
• 14,18,082 Persons evacuated and sheltered.
• 24,889 numbers of tourists safely evacuated from Puri, Ganjam, Cuttack and Balasore districts.
• 2398 number of polythene rolls from Gajapati district and 3200 rolls from Ganjam district sent to Puri.
• 600 rolls of polythene from Balangir and 200 rolls from Baragarh sent to Cuttack district.
• 500 rolls of polythene from Mayurbhanj, 350 rolls from Keonjhar, 300 rolls from Jharsuguda and 800 rolls from Koraput sent Khordha district.
• Train services resumed to normalcy from Bhubaneswar on 05th may.
• Diary plants are fully operational in Bhubaneswar.
• 15889 packets of relief materials (Chuda, Gur, Biscuit, Candle, Match Box & Salt) handed over to Puri, 4632 packets to Khordha and 800 packets to E. Co. Rly.
• 03 medical teams of Indian Coast Guard, at Paradip with first aid kit, emergency medicines and critical care ambulance assisting the administration.
• 1.15 lakh water pkts. and 1.5 lakh chlorine tablets dispatched from Pondichery to Bhubaneswar.
• 804 no. of MRCs opened.
• 321 number of Mobile Medical Teams Deployed.
• 1945 numbers of pregnant women shifted to Maa Gruhas/ Delivery points.
• 5703 number of open water sources disinfected affected areas.
• 2854947 number of ORS sachets distributed.
• 2334335 number of Halogen Tablets Distributed.
• 56 number of doctors deployed from outside to Boudh, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada and Puri.

Drinking Water:
• Required no. of DG sets hired and moved to the affected districts.
• Team of officials from adjoining districts deployed in most affected districts like Puri, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur for assisting the District Administration.
• Restoration works have been started by engaging 200 work man gangs mobilized within the State. 
• Approximately 200 no. additional gangs have been mobilized from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal through Partner Agencies such as L & T, TATA Power, PGCIL and NTPC.
• Arrangements have been made for quick procurement and deliver of poles from SAIL for steel poles and State based agencies for PSC (Cement Poles). Distribution transformers are being arranged through Odisha based manufacturers. Other minor material is also being arranged from local sources. In case of any additional requirement of sources from neighbouring States would be tapped.
• The Department of Energy have notified 1.5 times of prescribed wage rate for skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labourers in cyclone restoration work so as to attract more no of competent gangs from within and outside the State. Fooding wage Rs.150 per person per day has also been prescribed.   
Rural Development:
• In Puri district 64 roads cleared out of 560 affected roads.
• In Khurdha all roads cleared except 11.
• In Jagatsinghpur all roads cleared except in 3 blocks.
• In Cuttack all roads cleared except 11.

4. Deployment of Response Forces and others. 
• 20 ODRAF teams have been deployed for SAR and road clearance in the affected areas.
• 44 NDRF teams have been deployed for SAR and road clearance in the affected areas.
• 525 Fire Teams have been deployed for SAR and road clearance in the affected areas. 
• 22 teams of OFDC engaged for road clearance and tree cutting in Bhubaneswar City.

5. District/ ULB Specific Action Taken:

• Marine drive is being cleared from Konark side.
• 19 teams are in action for clearing the roads.
• 32 no. of Medical teams deployed.
• 32 no. of medical relief centres opened.
• 45 no. of Veterinary teams deployed.
• 2799.82 Qtl. of Chuda, 468.1 Qtl. of Gur and 30280 polythene sheets have been distributed.

• All PWD Roads cleared by today morning. Uprooted trees have already been cleared from all major roads
• 26 no. of Medical teams deployed.
• 10 no. of Veterinary teams deployed.
• 799 free kitchens running for 92,000 people.

• Traffic movement has been restored in all the PWD roads of Bhubaneswar
• Action has already been initiated to clear all the up-rooted tress in the arterial roads.
• 27 JCBs with full teams are being engaged for restoration work.

• Action has already been initiated to clear all the up-rooted trees.
• 23 JCBs with full teams are being engaged for restoration work.
• NHAI has initiated steps to remove up-rooted trees.
• 29 no. of medical teams deployed.
• 28 no. of veterinary teams deployed.
• 383.42 Qtls. of Chuda, 50.93 Qtls. of Gur, 18156 pkts. of biscuits distributed.
• Polythene sheets distributed to 5163 families. 
• All PWD roads cleared. Uprooted trees have been cleared from all major roads.
• All affected 33 KV line, 80 % of the 11 KV line, 70 % of the LT Lines,
68% of damaged distribution transformers have been restored.
• Electricity has been restored in 72 % of Drinking Water Supply System (Urban) and  80 % of Medical Institutions (DHC/ CHC/ PHC)
• 34 no. of Medical Teams deployed.
• 12 no. of Veterinary teams deployed.

• Traffic has been restored in all PWD Road and NH roads.
• 252 uprooted trees have already been cleared from all the roads.
• 44 No. of Medical teams deployed.
• 22 No. of Veterinary teams deployed.
• 4.5 MT of Cattle feed supplied.
• Chuda- 823.37 Qtl., Gud- 204.74 Qtls, K. Oil 23200 ltrs., Polythene 2039 pieces distributed.
• Almost all roads are cleared by Fire/ ODRAF/ NDRF/ Engineering Dept. Bearing few interior village roads.
• Restoration of power supply is in full swing. Power supply to District HQ Hospital restored.
• PWS are functioning on mobile DG sets.
• 3 days emergent relief sanctioned.
• For clearance of Traffic, 10 JCBs with full teams are being engaged for restoration work.
• 23 no. of Medical teams deployed.
• 50 no. of Medical Relief Centers Opened.
• 10 no. of Veterinary teams deployed.
• Electricity Restored in 90 % of Bhadrak Municipality, 80 % in Bhadrak Block, 70 % in Bonth block, 40 % in Bhandaripokhari block, 35 %  in Dhamnagar block, 60 % in Chandabali block, 65 % in Tihidi block, 65 % in Basudevpur block. 
• All PWD roads cleared. Uprooted trees cleared from all major roads.
• Chuda- 11 Qtls, Gur- 02 Qtls. and Biscuits- 91 cartoons distributed. Additional 13 Qtls. of Chuda, 103 cartoons of biscuits received from different volunteer organisations distributed.
• 223.15 Qtl. of PDS rice supplied for 494 free kitchens.
• 125 PWS out of 200 affected have been operationalised using DG sets.
• Power supply have been restored in 36 affected PWS.
• 2768 no. of tube well disinfected out of 17723.

• Action has already been initiated to clear all the up-rooted trees.
• 08 JCBs with full teams are being engaged for restoration work.
• NHAI has intimated steps to remove up-rooted trees.
• 02 nos. of medical teams deployed.
• 01 no. of veterinary teams deployed.
• Traffic was normalised in all the PWD roads by engaging 20 JCBs with full teams for restoration work.
• 16 no. of medical teams and 28 ambulances deployed.
• 04 no. of Veterinary teams deployed.

• Traffic has been restored in all PWD Roads and NH roads.
• Uprooted trees have already been cleared from all major roads.
• 58 no. of Medical teams deployed.
• 72 Qtl. Chuda & 02 Qtl Gur distributed.

• 15 no. of medical teams deployed. 
• 10 no. of veterinary teams deployed.
• Traffic has been restored in all PWD roads
• 04 no. of Medical teams deployed.
• 06 no. of Veterinary teams deployed.
• 203 no. of polythene sheets distributed.
• All PWD roads cleared. Up rooted trees have already been cleared from all major roads.
• 04 no. of Medical teams deployed.
• 04 no. of Veterinary teams deployed.
6. Hon'ble Chief Minister's Package:

• The district of Puri and parts of Khurdha have been extremely severely affected. For all families covered under Food Security, 50 KG of rice plus Rs. 2000/- and polythene will be provided.

• For the parts of Khurdha District that have been severely affected, for all families covered under food security additional one month quota of rice plus Rs. 1000/- and polythene will be provided.

• Cuttack, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur districts are moderately affected.
Rs. 500/- plus additional one month quota of rice will be provided in these districts.

• In all the affected districts one month additional pension and house building assistance as per relief code i.e.
▪ Rs. 95,100/- for fully damaged structures,
▪ Rs. 5,200/- for partially damaged structures and
▪ Rs. 3,200/- for minor damages will be provided.

• The houses completely damaged will be reconstructed under housing schemes expeditiously.
• Loss of Agriculture and horticultural crops and animal resources, fisheries will be assessed and compensated accordingly.
• Tree plantations will be taken up in mission mode soon after relief and restoration on the 3rd day of post cyclone it seems another 1 week may short fall to restore power n water in BBSR it self.

For regular updates, please follow me on Twitter @ranjanpanda

Monday, February 25, 2019

Media Workshop on Climate Change in Bay of Bengal: Inviting Participation!

Currently, we have few seats remaining for the first workshop at Konark to be held on 10-11 March. Journalists reporting coastal Odisha issues and interested to explore more on climate change impacts and resilience are encouraged to apply. Preference will be given to jornos from Puri and nearby districts.

#climatechange #BayofBengal #Disasters #Mangroves #Resilience #Freshwater

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India


Tweets @ranjanpanda

People losing out to sea, traditional fishing losing out to unsustainable practices: Vizag Field Diary

Pic from the field trip to Mangamari peta, Vizag during Media Workshop on Climate Change, Climate Justice and Resilience in #BayOfBengal organised by #Internews , #EarthJournalismNetwork and #ThirdPole.  I joined the programme as a Resource Person to speak on Freshwater Challenges in Bay of Bengal due to climate change. 

Knowledge of responsible fishing is a matter of the past. Such old men find it hard to convince the young generations and hence surrender to the new unsustainable methods themselves. Market demands the fishermen to harvest as much fish as they can. The sea is bouncing back, giving more and more dry days. And when the bumper catch happens, a huge chunk of that goes waste. Climate change and pollution as such play spoilsport, driving away the younger generation from this traditional occupation.

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India

Tweets @ranjanpanda 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Nominations invited for 3rd batch of Odisha Water Honours to be given away during Odisha River Conference!

Nominations invited for third batch of Odisha Water Honours
·       Odisha Jala Joddha Samman and Ajira Bhagiratha Samman to be conferred during 3rd Odisha River Conference, to be held with Similipal River Festival, on 24-25 March 2019 at Baripada
·       Women achievers and women led community efforts to conserve water resources and related fields are especially encouraged to apply for this year’s Honours

·       Selfie with Budhabalanga River and other competitions in countdown to 3rd Odisha River Conference are efforts to involve youth and children in river and forest conservation

·       More than 100 participants from across the nation to participate in 3rd Odisha River Conference to discuss Forest-River-Communities linkage for conservation of Rivers and combating Climate Change

Bhubaneswar, 12th February 2019 - Water Initiatives, Odisha (WIO), the leading voice of water in Odisha for nearly three decades, has invited nominations from individuals and communities for the 3rd batch of Odisha Water Honours.  The Odisha Water Honours, the only of its kind in the state, are meant to recognise dedicated individuals and communities for their pioneering contributions in the field of water/river/ecology conservation and restoration through various actions such as conservation, awareness, education, advocacy, grassroots initiatives.

The Odisha Jala Joddha Samman is given for individual contributions while Ajira Bhagiratha Samman is conferred for commendable efforts by a community/organisation, informed Ranjan Panda, Convenor of Water Initiatives, also popularly known as Water Man of Odisha.

For the Odisha Jala Joddha Samman, applications are invited from individuals who have contributed positively towards building awareness on issues like water and water-forest-biodiversity interlinkages or have done pioneering work through their publications, individual actions or other means that have influenced policy decisions and initiated community mobilisation on these issues, Panda added.

For the Ajira Bhagiratha Samman nominations are invited from communities/groups/organisations who have been doing exemplary work in conservation of water resources, protection of natural forests that have increased the availability of water resources in the locality, or any such efforts in water conservation/management that has empowered communities assert their rights over water and impacted their lives, livelihood and local ecology positively.

He continued: “These honours are not only a tribute to people and communities who are endeavouring hard to work on water/ecology conservation, but also aimed at raising awareness about the dire need of such work at a point of time when water has already become a scarce resource and impacting millions of people and other species adversely.”

These applications need to be emailed to or sent via messages in the Mahanadi River Waterkeeper page in Facebook. The nominations can be made either by the concerned individuals/groups or by others on their behalf.  The last date of sending nominations is 18th March 2019.

For further details, people are requested to write emails or post messages on Mahanadi River Waterkeeper Facebook page. 

These awards will be conferred on the selected persons and communities at Baripada on 24th March during the 3rd Odisha River Conference to be organised, along with Similipal River Festival, by the WIO in collaboration with more than 30 partner organisations, Panda briefed. He requested all the media outlets to spread this message by giving ample coverage so that deserving persons/communities can file their nominations.

He further said, “This time we are encouraging nominations from women and women-led community organisations for these honours.

Other Awards - 

In countdown to the 3rd Odisha River Conference, several local competitions are also being organised by WIO and local hosts at Baripada. 

In the Selfie with Budhabalanga Contest, youths in the age group of 18-25 from Odisha can participate. The competition, a part of WIO’s river-youth connect programme, aims at motivating the youth to get closer to rivers, love them, understand their plight and help save them. The last date for submitting entries is 20th March 2019.

A series of drawing and quiz competitions on Budhabalanga River and Similipal bio reserve will also be organised among school and college students at Baripada, the host town. Exciting prizes await youth and children who participate and win in these competitions.  Prizes will be given away at the inaugural session of the conference.

3rd Odisha River Conference -

This time around, the theme for the Odisha River Conference is ‘Forest-River-Communities Nexus for Conservation of Rivers and Combating Climate Change’, to be held at Baripada on 24-25 March.  More than 100 participants including community members involved in forest and conservation; villagers, indigenous communities and farmers;  local and national level experts on river/water, forest and climate change issues; representatives from civil society organisations from across the nation; researchers, academics and other concerned people are expected to join the two day long intense deliberation that would lead to formulating future strategies of working together to conserve our rivers, lakes, other water resources, natural forests and promote nature based solutions to combat climate change with complete participation of local and indigenous communities, Panda said.

As this conference reaches its third episode, it has turned into a huge collective endeavour to save the rivers and other ecosystems. More than 30 organisations from local, state, national and international levels have already given their consent to collaborate in this year’s river conference and more organisations have shown their interest to join, informed Panda.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives
On behalf of the 3rd Odisha River Conference organising committee
Mobile: +91 9437050103/7008706434
Tweets @ranjanpanda and @MahanadiRiver


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Inviting Organisations and Individuals to partner in River Conference: Forest-River-Communities-Climate Change

Hi All,

Greetings from India!

A ‘River Basin Approach’ in ‘Nature Based Solutions’ by ensuring rights to local and indigenous communities over the local natural resources with involvement of all stakeholders can offer some of the best solutions to growing water woes and climate change crises. That’s what we want to explore further in our exciting upcoming River Conference (3rd Odisha River Conference) scheduled for 24-25 March 2019 with the following theme:

Promoting the Forest-River-Communities nexus for Conservation of Rivers and Combating Climate Change
The conference will see a unique gathering of forest protecting communities, civil society organisations, experts, academia and other stakeholders at Baripada in the eastern state of Odisha.  Baripada in Mayurbhanj district, famous for the Simlipal bio reserve and a perfect test case to understand intricate linkages between forests, rivers and indigenous communities. 

The Conference agenda has significance both at national and global context for people working on these issues and who are interested in taking up suitable action and advocacy initiatives surrounding the theme.  We plan to have two general sessions, four technical sessions and a River Festival by indigenous communities residing in the Similipal bio reserve showcasing their relationship with the rivers and forests. 

Would you be interested to be part of this unique initiative?  If you want to collaborate or participate, please write to me for further details. Our last River Conference in 2018, organised around inter-state cooperation in river basin management, saw collaboration of 25 organisations and many individuals and witnessed active participation of about 150 people from cross section of stakeholders. We expect more encouraging response this time.

Thanking you,
Warm regards,


Ranjan K Panda

Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance, New York)

Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Country Manager for India, Climate Scorecard Project (Boston, USA)

Mobile: +919437050103

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader

Tweet @ranjanpanda
Tweet @MahanadiRiver


Fighting water woes, combating climate change...25 years and on!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Mismanagement can worsen Odisha extreme rainfall events - Ranjan Panda in India Climate Dialogue

As climate change makes extreme rainfall events more frequent in the Mahanadi River basin in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, there is urgent need to better manage the river and its dams
Nothing much remains of Manju Seth’s house after the extreme rainfall last July (Photo by Ranjan Panda)
Nothing much remains of Manju Seth’s house after the extreme rainfall last July (Photo by Ranjan Panda)
Extreme precipitation events are the new normal in India. Of the recent disasters related to such extremes, the Kerala deluge haunts the national memory the most. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), in its latest State of Global Climate report, noted that among the extreme weather events in 2018, the Kerala floods caused the maximum number of casualties globally.
As the debate is yet to settle whether extreme rainfall or faulty management of dams were to blame for the Kerala floods, in the eastern state of Odisha, the Hirakud dam — arguably Asia’s longest earthen dam and blamed for many floods – is up for another challenge: extreme precipitation events.
Last monsoon, fortunately enough, a disaster was averted due to sheer luck. Fortunately, the date of massive rainfall and that of dam’s floodwater release missed each other by a few days. The debate over extreme precipitation events and urban flooding currently centres more around large cities, but smaller cities adjacent to dams need to be seriously watched and preparations for building their resilience to such extreme events need to be built. This case tells us why.
Manju’s plight
On July 27 last year, Manju Seth, a lady in her mid-forties, was busy gathering all that remained in the riverbed where she had a small hut just a week ago near Kachheri Chhak Ghat of Mahanadi River in Sambalpur. The district administration on July 20 had forced her and 13 other families dwelling in the place to evacuate their dwellings because Hirakud dam was to release the first lot of floodwaters on July 24.
Manju was reluctant and so were all the other families. They had been asked by the district administration to stay on the riverbed just about a year ago, when they were displaced from a slum on the river bank to give way to a bridge being built across the Mahanadi. “We had been living here at the Kachheri Chhak for more than 50 years, and when they decided to build a bridge they just asked us to vacate. Where would we go?” asked Manju, who works as a maid, sweeping homes, cleaning utensils and washing clothes for some well-off families of the city.
Ironically, the district administration had supplied electricity to this new habitation a few months ago, knowing very well that a riverbed cannot be a permanent settlement. “We were not sure about the rains and water this time, as for the last 3-4 years the water level had not touched this side of the river bed where we built our houses,” she said. This time, the rainfall was scary for Manju and for the whole district.
While the district administration had not yet fully realised the dangers of an extremely heavy rainfall that was making its way to the city, it kept persuading Manju and others to vacate the place and shift to a flood shelter. “They were evacuated because the dam was to release first lot of floodwaters on July 24. What surprised us was that on July 21 and 22, just after they were asked to shift to a flood shelter in Chhanrpur Jharapali village on the other side of the river, the city received unprecedented rainfall, something that has not seen since 1982,” said Jagdish Mishra, a local social activist.
Extreme rainfall
On July 21, when heavy rainfall lashed most parts of the state and the government’s attention was concentrated on the state’s capital city of Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur, just downstream of Hirakud, was drowning as well. Burla, the city on the other end of Hirakud dam, received as high as 622 mm of rainfall in a day, breaking a 36-year-old record of the district. See: Act now to spur urban climate resilience
Fourteen houses of poor and internally displaced people on the Mahanadi riverbed were washed out after heavy rainfall (Photo by Ranjan Panda)
Fourteen houses of poor and internally displaced people on the Mahanadi riverbed were washed out after heavy rainfall (Photo by Ranjan Panda)
It was almost 41% of the entire year’s rainfall. More than half of the city was engulfed in water. Reports of the administration said that this rainfall affected at least 125,000 people and damaged more than 700 homes. Around 2,500 people were provided shelter in 22 relief camps and at least one person died.
The Hirakud reservoir was swelling that day as more than 100,000 cusec of water was entering into the reservoir for incessant rains upstream in Chhattisgarh that borders Odisha in the north. For four days prior to the Odisha rains, the dam was being filled with more water from the upstream state. On July 20, at night at around 9 pm, the water level had crossed 608.62 feet. The dam, which has been failing in controlling floods, runs into safety risks at such levels of water.
In 1982, Sambalpur had received 582 mm rainfall that had engulfed almost two thirds of the city under floodwaters. The city had never seen such a flood before. One of the main roads of the city, that runs parallel to Mahanadi River, breached because a major drain carrying both backwater of the Hirakud reservoir and rainwater forced its way to the river.
The city’s planning took a major shift after that. Strengthening embankments became a priority along with strong sluice gates on these drains at points they join the river. Sambalpur is on the bank of Mahanadi River, just about 10 km downstream the Hirakud dam, built in 50s. The region is now prone to increased number and intensity of extreme precipitation events, partly due to climate change.
Boon or bane?
“The Hirakud dam that was built to control floods in the delta districts of the river 300-400 km downstream has not only been unsuccessful in doing that but also has increased the floods in the upstream districts such as Sambalpur, where flood was not known earlier,” said Arttabandhu Mishra, a retired teacher from the Sambalpur University who has studied the Hirakud dam extensively.
This dam, spreading over 746 sq. km — almost half of the size of Delhi — is the only major dam project and flood control system on the 858 km long Mahanadi River, India’s sixth largest river, that drains an area of around 141,600 sq. km. The two major riparian states — Chhattisgarh and Odisha — have locked horns over the sharing of water of this river and the conflict centres around reducing flow of water from the upper state (Chhattisgarh) due to construction of a number of dams and barrages.
A major area of the conflict that does not make news is the potential of increased flood disasters due to increased number of dams and barrages being built upstream of Hirakud. Even though Odisha has raised this point during a Chief Ministerial level meeting held on the conflict, both the states have not chalked out any joint mechanism to streamline and strengthen coordinated flood management strategies.
Sambalpur city on the bank of Mahanadi River just downstream of Hirakud dam is most vulnerable in changing climate scenarios (Photo by Ranjan Panda)
Sambalpur city on the bank of Mahanadi River just downstream of Hirakud dam is most vulnerable in changing climate scenarios (Photo by Ranjan Panda)
Civil society organisations such as the Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) have been consistently raising concerns about the failed flood management in the Hirakud, alleging that the so-called rule curve that is followed in managing the inflow and outflow of floodwaters during the monsoon has drastically failed in factoring issues such as developments upstream that changes the flood flow, and climate change that increases rainfall variability. The Comptroller and Auditor General has also rapped the state government for failures in flood management due to similar reasons.
Future dangers
The heavy downpour that happened in July cannot be ignored any further as a stray event. Studies point to dangerous trends that grip the river basin already. Mahanadi is already facing increased high floods and researchers attribute this to climate change. A study by researchers from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, published in the Journal of Hydrology concludes, on the basis of their analysis pertaining to post-Hirakud dam construction period, that the recent incidences of high floods in the Mahanadi basin is due to an increase in extreme rainfall in the middle reaches of the basin. It means the extreme rainfall received at Sambalpur in July this year is a new normal and threat.
“The summer monsoon is very important for agrarian countries like us as it brings 80% of the rainfall and that’s going to be impacted due to increased extreme precipitation events,” Sandeep Pattnaik of IIT Bhubaneswar said. Pattnaik is co-author of the research paper titled Ramifications of Atmospheric Humidity on Monsoon Depressions over the Indian Subcontinent that has been published in the Nature Scientific Reports.
“There has been a constant increase in extreme rainfall events over central India during 1950-2015 and it’s going to increase as the surface gets warmer,” he said. “We have studied four monsoon depressions, three of which are from the Bay of Bengal and have found out that the Mahanadi catchment area will experience increased extreme precipitation events.”
New approach needed
Manju survived the rainfall all because the river was still dry and Hirakud had not released any floodwater. Manju and others were demanding permanent rehabilitation and at a place close to the city. “I have three children and the elder girl is studying in class 10th. This is a critical year and we cannot manage her studies from a faraway place,” she said. Her struggle for rightful rehabilitation will continue, as will be the case of the millions who are displaced by disasters in the country, and live in dingy informal settlements.
The city of Sambalpur with its 335,000 people, and other places downstream, cannot be complacent any longer, knowing the fact that flood events due to extreme precipitation are going to grow and cities like Sambalpur will be at the receiving end. There is an urgent need to integrate city planning with climate change induced calamities. We just can’t leave it to luck, as there is no guarantee we can avoid days of extreme precipitation coinciding with those of floodwater release from the dam.
“There are various lacunae in our current data generation methods. We don’t have high-density surface observation systems. The existing weather stations are too less and their recordings can miss the complete picture,” Pattnaik said. “While high-density weather observation stations are needed starting from catchment areas to the delta, a proper cooperation and coordination between both the states is also vital.

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