Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year 2012 !

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thermal projects, Chattisgarh threaten Mahanadi

Thermal projects, Chattisgarh threaten Mahanadi

Siba Mohanty Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: The Mahanadi, Orissa’s lifeline, is at the mercy of thermal power projects (TPPs) and Chhattisgarh. If the existing plants in Orissa are not sucking it dry, those in Chhattisgarh __ on the upstream of the river __ soon will. Similarly, if the fate of the deltaic region of Orissa hinges on what Chhattisgarh does with the storm water during the monsoon, the river system’s survival now solely depends on what the neighbouring state plans to arrest the depletion of water flow.

It is a Catch-22 situation for Orissa. Its ambition for development has led to such a surge in industrialisation that it has committed itself to a spree of TPPs, thanks to the massive coal reserve. Most of the existing and proposed projects are dependent on Mahanadi and its tributaries for water. What complicates the scenario is Chhattisgarh’s greed to exploit the coal reserves and Ministry of Environment and Forest’s so-called green plans.

In the last five years, 24 thermal power projects have been given environmental clearance (EC) by the Ministry. The combined installed capacity of these projects, according a paper by Centre for Science and Environment, stands at 19,443 mega watt (MW). Chhattisgarh accounts for 19 coal-based TPPs with a total capacity of 16,533 MW while Orissa has five with 2,910 MW. All these power projects will draw water from Mahanadi and its tributaries and the total consumption is projected at a whopping 1.55 million cubic metre (MCM) per day.

The future is even more bleak. Chhattisgarh is aiming at a total installed capacity of 56,000 MW while Orissa is looking at 34,000 MW. According to rough estimates, 1,000 MW power generation requires 4,000 litre per hour which means if all the projects see the light of the day, they will consume three to four times the total domestic water consumption of the State. “Most of the water will have to be fed by Mahanadi. What’s awaiting the State is nothing less than disaster in the decades to come since the drawing of water from Mahanadi will jump astronomically,” said Ranjan Panda of Water Initiative Orissa.

Forest and Environment Department sources agree. When the industries sign MoUs and water is committed to them, the allocation is made based on mathematical calculations. “No one knows what the scenario will be when the adequate volume of water is not available from the river. This has led to a growing conflict between industries, and local communities and farmers, said an officer, unwilling to be named.

Such has been the pressure on Mahanadi that Chhattisgarh has begun to act cautiously. An assessment showed that water flow at Kashdol on Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh ranged between 3,000 MCM and 10,000 MCM in the last decade. It has now dropped to 1,528 MCM. “Alarmed by the reduction, Chhattisgarh Government has planned at least 600 check dams to arrest 30 per cent of the available flow on Mahanadi.” This, experts say, will decide how Orissa lives in the decades to come.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Invitation to Consultation on Fluorosis and Drinking Water at Nuapada

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)

In association with

Journalists Association of Nuapada (JAN) and Vikash, Khariar

Invite you to a Consultation on

Fluorosis in our Drinking Water: Problems and Solutions

At Nuapada, on 30th December 2011

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Fluorosis contamination of our ground water is a major disaster we live with.  It is estimated that about 66 million people, not less than 6 million of who are children, live with the death called ‘fluorosis’ in our country.  At least 9 states are under the grip of this menace that cripples and kills.  Various estimates tell us that almost 18 of Odisha’s districts are clutched by the disaster.  Yet, initiatives are too little and much scattered.  Both government and civil society groups have been taking up initiatives to tackle this problem but the need of the hour is to recognize this as a ‘living disaster’ and initiate a consistent action, involving all sections of the society, to fight this out. 

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) and its member organisations and individuals have been involved in understanding the spread and impacts of fluorosis.  We want to engage in a constant endeavour from now on and try out solutions, with all of you.

We are planning a series of dialogues on this in all the affected districts and bring back the issue to mainstream of planning; and to join the dots of initiatives already being taken.  The first of the series is being organised at Nuapada on 30th December, 2011 with support of the Journalists Association of Nuapada (JAN) and Vikash, Khariar.
If you have worked on this issue or are interested to contribute, please write or call back for further details.
Looking forward to your support and solidarity.

Thanks and regards

Ranjan Panda                              Bimal Singh Dalpati                                   Ajit Kumar Panda
Convenor, WIO                              Secretary, JAN                                               Director, Vikash

Water Initiatives Odisha: Fighting water woes, combating climate change... more than two decades now!

Mobile:             +919437050103      
You can also mail me at:

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader

Please join our group 'Save Rivers Save Civilizations' at

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mining brings prosperity to whom?

Why POSCO type projects are unwanted?
Dear Friends,
We just returned from a trip of the Dhinkia-Nuagaon area where people, for seven years now, are democratically fighting against the illegal POSCO project that continues to destroy the local economy and ecology even without having a valid MoU with the state government.   The people in the village are virtually living a life of ‘exclusion’ from the mainstream as their ‘democratic protest for their just right’ has invited the ire of their own government for profit of a Foreign Company.  They fear to come out of the village even when they are ill because, according to them, both the police and company goons are waiting to nab them waiting to grab them, book them under false charges (which many of them are already facing), arrest them, beat them up and all the ‘hell’ they had never expected in this ‘Independent’ country of theirs. They live under the reign of terror and for them the State is a Terrorist outfit.
I have decided to put this up for members of the groups because some members of this e-group (as well as other e-groups in which I am a member) seem to be disillusioned about the ‘real development’ and have been blindly promoting the cause of Vedanta and POSCO type of industrialization. True, from this kind of destructive industrialization, their types of 'educated' and greedy people will get huge benefits - as the case has been historically - but only at the cost of the environment, local people and entrepreneurs. 
In case of POSCO for example, the beetle farmers are enterprising farmers and not only earn handsomely but also pay the labour they engage, almost twice and thrice than even the minimum stipulated wage rate of the government.  Most importantly they hold on to the mother land, protect the forests that gives them the required ingredients for their economy to thrive as well as help the coastal ecology to maintain its necessary ecological balance.  Most importantly, development this way means development of all in the locality. 
On the other hand, what POSCO will do?  It will destroy the ecology (as you know how trees are the first victim of the arrogant and abusive industrialization being promoted in that area); it will displace the local people by paying them some 'cash' compensation which will mostly help them to become wage labourers and later paupers; it will benefit the rich and the elite and most importantly the bureaucrats, political parties and criminals like Bapi Sarkhel to flourish.  Development here is centralized and is not distributive at all. 
I am sure, some so called 'development pundits' in this group, who term everyone who oppose POSCO type projects as anti-development, will have the guts to understand the basics of economics and ecology and will dare to have a vision beyond two-three decades (when all the mineral wealth of this state would be over - partly by legal extraction and mostly by theft).  Just for your ready reference, pasting below a latest news from the POSCO area, published in the Hindu today.
Thanks and regards
Ranjan Panda
Betel farmers turn daily wagers

Their vineyards were demolished for Posco project

Kabir Pradhan, a betel farmer, now considers him lucky as he did not sway with ‘majoritarian' sentiment in his Nuagaon village. The betel farmer had refused to accept compensation for allowing his vineyard to be pulled down.

In fact Kabir's vineyard is the only one of 438 betel vine enclosures left to be demolished in Nuagaon, a part of which is to be acquired for the proposed mega steel mill by South Korean Posco.

“As many as 12 vineyard owners, who got richer by few lakhs of rupees after receiving compensation from administration a couple of months ago, now work under me. Had I agreed to administration's proposal and given up the right over my vineyard, I would have met the same fate,” said Kabir.

Most of the betel farmers of Nuagaon village whose vineyards were razed to ground have spent the compensation money within few months. They have now turned daily wage earners from being proud owners of betel farms.

“Two of my brothers opted for compensation and handed over their vineyards to administration. Now, one of them is an agricultural labour and another is on his way to spend the compensation money,” Kabir said.

Sudhir Dalei, a former betel farmer of Nuagaon, had invested the compensation money in purchasing a pick-up van. With no previous experience in passenger car business, Sudhir failed to extract profit from his new venture. “I failed to pay this month's instalment of the car loan. I don't know what would happen in future,” he said.

“All of my fellow betel farmers, Sukuta Nayak, Tima Pradhan, Dolagobinda Sahu, Jagabandhu Pradhan, Abhi Jena, Ramesh Khuntia and Nistur Rout, had betel vineyards. Now they look for engagement on daily basis to eke out their livelihood,” said Kabir, who claimed to earn profit of Rs. 20,000 per month from his farm.

The administration had announced compensation of Rs. 11.5 lakh per acre of vineyard and 20 per cent of the compensation for daily labourers who would be rendered jobless. Total 1,503 betel farmers from six villages such as Nuagaon, Polang, Noliasahi, Gobindpur, Bhuyanpal and Bayanalakandha were to lose their vineyards. Jagatsinghpur district administration estimated that 253 acres land would be made encroachment free if vineyards were pulled down.

“This is a classic case how situation can quickly turn worse when government displace people from resource-based livelihood. Gullible villagers cannot thrive on a cash-based livelihood sources. The sooner the government understands this, the better off the farmers' condition will be,” said Ranjan Panda, a social activist.

Kabir reiterated his pledge to oppose land acquisition for facilitating mega steel plant near his village.

·  Many of them have squandered the compensation money
·  Kabir Pradhan is the only farmer who refused to accept compensation

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thought for 20th December 2011

An old fisherman said to me, "Boat is my plough, River the field.  What is right over land for a farmer, is right over water for me."

Ranjan Panda

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sindhol Project Cancelled! We have issues still...!!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Greetings from Water Initiatives Odisha!

Today, in the floor of the Assembly, the Energy Minister of the state announced that the Sindhol Hydropower Project has been cancelled. We at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) welcome this statement of the Minister.

We also take this opportunity to Congratulate all the villagers and other people who constantly fought this issue and have virtually forced the govt. to roll back this faulty decision.  

However, the way things have moved in the govt. corners, we do also apprehend that this may well be a political game being played keeping in mind the forthcoming panchayat elections. WIO therefore urges upon the Govt. to:

1.  Issue a Gazette Notification clearly mentioning that the Sindhol Project has been cancelled with immediate effect and that no further move will initiated on this front.

2.  We also urge upon the govt. to cancel, with immediate effect, the MoU that was signed between the govt., OHPC and NHPC.

3. We would also like to draw the attention of the government to make public, at least now, the 'Detailed Project Report' (DPR).    As you may remember, we kept on asking the government to release the DPR and clear the air on Sindhol.  

4. We would also draw your attention to the approval for Terms of References for scoping study of the Sindhol Project granted (with certain conditions) by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Govt. of India, We urge upon the govt. to immediately recommend for scrapping of these ToRs as well.

5.  We urge upon you to inform the public the sources from which the upcoming power projects near proposed Sindhol project sites will be allocated water.  

We hope, if the government's declaration of the cancellation of the Sindhol Project is real, it would clarify on the above raised issues.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, WIO

Cell: 9437050103

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thought for 19th December 2011

A complex nature makes truth melt and disappear; simplicity holds it firm and forever…

Ranjan Panda

Friday, December 16, 2011

Water Lootera Vedanta gets undue favour from Water Bureaucracy

Open Letter to the Secretary, Water Resources Department, Govt. of Odisha from Water Initiatives Odisha

Sir, why the ‘water lootera’ Vedanta gets undue favour from your department? 

·         - Do you know it not Sir that your officers take recourse in ‘telephonic discussions’ in waiving off water tax to industries?
- Is this what the reforms you have been talking about in the name of Integrated Water Resources Management(IWRM) that, as we have been apprehending, is actually a plan to take away right of water from common people, farmers and ecology in favour of allocation to blind industrialization that the govt. is committed?
- The people of Odisha need an explanation on this. 


Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) has just learnt that the Executive Engineer, Main Dam Division, Burla, on 18th November, 2011, has written to the Additional Secretary to Govt. of Odisha’s Water Resources Department to waive penalty due on the Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. to the tune of about 9 crore of rupees against withdrawal of water from the Bheden River and later from Hirakud Reservoir.  The Executive Engineer, citing example of a telephonic instruction from the Additional Secretary of the DoWR, writes that industries having Govt. allocation should not be charged penal rate merely due to non-execution of agreement.  In fact, based on such a telephonic instruction, as the letter describes, the company was not being charged any penalty since August 2008.  However, a data sheet on assessment of water rate of VAL drawing water from river Bheden alone, shows that the Company has always been charged ‘six times penalty’ on almost each month from September 2007 onwards.  The Executive Engineer recommends the waiver on the ground that VAL has good payment records.  The above record however shows that the VAL has always had kept huge amount of arrears and has never cleared its dues as charged by the department.  It clearly shows how the Officials are favouring this industry.  We urge upon the Govt. of Odisha to immediately investigate into this matter and let the public know what makes an Executive Engineer favour a ‘Water Lootera’ Company like VAL.  We also demand stringent punishment to the company for having defaulted so long on the water tax and penalty imposed on it. 

This is not the isolated example when it comes to the Vedanta Group of Companies.  We at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) had been raising the issue of unauthorised exploitation of ground water by VAL at Jharsuguda.  The local people have also raised this issue several times.  However, the Water Resources Department kept maintaining that there was no illegal exploitation of ground water.  Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) has just got hold of a letter from the Chief Engineer, OWPO addressed to the Additional Secretary to Govt. of Odisha’s Water Resources Department which clearly mentions how the company has been illegally extracting ground water within its Jharsuguda complex through borewells.  The letter dated 17th September 2011 mentions that “1.782 lakh Gallon Water from borewell without Agreement since 08/2007.  So, 6 times penalty has been imposed and intimated the industries to seal all Borewell from Sept 2010 vide E.E. Letter No. 15.12.2010”.  Accordingly the company, as per the said govt. letter, had a water rate arrear of about 93 lakh rupees pending against it.  Was this free loot of the water resources possible without connivance of the departmental and other officials?  WIO urges upon the Govt. of Odisha to immediately inquire into this matter and punish the company and all officials involved in this fraud.  We also urge upon the govt. to inform the public the status of the borewells and the extraction of the water at the moment.  Have the borewells been sealed, as mentioned in the above referred letter?  We doubt.  So, we demand a public audit of the company complex where local people, local self govt. representatives and civil society representatives should go along with govt. officials and verify the situation. 

We also urge upon the govt. to declare all production of the company using the illegally drawn water as ‘illegal’ and impose heavy penalty and punish the company bosses and officials suitably.  As such also this company has all along been a defaulter in paying water rates.  The above letter of the Chief Engineer mentions that VAL Lanjigarh and VAL Jharsuguda together had arrear worth Rs.14,37,99,172/- pending against it as on July 2011.  It must have gone much higher by now.  Its high time the Govt. took action to show that it respects its own Water Policy and Rules.

The above examples point how the Industries are given a free ride to loot our water resources.  We at WIO have raised concerns about several industries already.  The same was pointed out by several participants of a recently organised consultation on “IWRM and Baitarani” at Keonjhar by WIO.  We urge upon the Govt. of Odisha to release a status paper of all illegal withdrawal of water by industries in the state, the amount of tariff dues and penalty pending with them, action taken against this illegality and steps taken to restore the water resources from their exploitative clutches.  We also urge upon the Govt. to give ‘shut down notices’ to all industries who are engaged in water theft.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha

Cell:                            9437050103                 

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thought for 7th December 2011

Realisation of the purpose of ‘Being’ starts in dissolving the ‘I’…

Ranjan Panda

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thought for 5th December 2011

In the current materialistic world, caring hearts are often misunderstood; because people have become too accustomed to falsehood and greed…

Ranjan Panda

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thought for 3rd December 2011

Materialism is our route to extinction.  Yet we seem to have lost our willingness to arrest it…

Ranjan Panda

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thought for 1st December 2011

Trees often talk to me and ask, ‘we mourn your deaths & even participate in your funerals.  Why do you do the opposite?’…

Ranjan Panda