Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thought of the day - 26th February 2011

There may be many differences between Shahjahan's 'Taj' and Mukesh Ambani's 'Antilla', but what makes these two structures common is that they are built by exploiting the poor; a character of the rulers that has not changed across civilizations.  

This is photo of Taj Mahal built in 16th century by 20000 workers who were forced to work in unhealthy and exploitative conditions for 17 years.  And we call it the symbol of Love!

Ranjan Panda

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Interview in Edit Page of Times of India, 11th February 2011


‘Government has to change its mentality’

With considerable experience at the grassroots and at macro levels, Ranjan Panda droughtproofs perennially droughtprone areas in Orissa. Felicitated by WaterAID, amongst other organisations, he spoke to Deep K Datta-Ray

    What is your specific area of environmentalism and why? 

It’s water harvesting. It’s a myth India doesn’t receive a good monsoon. The problem is wastage, exacerbated by climate change. People have less time to collect rainwater for farming and personal use. I try to change this, put in place schemes villagers can use to harvest rainwater. As a sociologist, i went to remote areas to study local knowledge and stayed to help preserve it, especially in managing water because of the richness of their knowledge. Ineffective water harvesting means people can’t grow crops, land is deserted,
there is migration to urban areas and that generates a whole slew of problems at the abandoned village where soil deteriorates causing environmental problems. And in the city, look how destitute people live in slums. None of this need happen. 

    Can people quitting the land be attributed to water problems? 

In Orissa, water degradation started at the end of colonial rule 
and was aggravated post-Independence by two huge mistakes. First, massive state sector water harvesting. This meant local knowledge was lost as government created a dependency syndrome. People stopped doing something they did naturally. Second, the state did a bad job. Central planning meant local practices were ignored. One example is the Mahabandha Yojana. Recently, massive water tanks were constructed in differing terrains. But one size does not fit all areas. Big tanks have problems, like silting, which cannot be managed locally. As a result much water is wasted and this is what i’m trying to stop. 

    How was water managed pre-Independence? 

Villagers took care of matters. They knew how water flowed and constructed small structures to direct and collect rainwater. Locals knew the lay of the land and utilised the knowledge. They 
built ecological and economic marvels – Katas, Mudas and others – throughout western Orissa which are now forgotten. Records show this was agriculturally one of the most prosperous regions just a century ago. Small was beautiful. People maintained these facilities on their own using knowledge built up over centuries. But now, a region which gave the wonder of rice to the world is drought-ridden. And it’s because of gross neglect of these structures and systems. 

    How do you revitalise this ancient knowledge to solve today’s problems? 

We build on this knowledge and use modern science to excavate and renovate centuries-old structures. We retrieve knowledge about the local terrain and water movement and adapt it to newer changes. We also use modern biology to plan vegetation that prevents soil erosion. We encourage farmers to return to 
organic farming because the use of hybrids and pesticides is very, very water intensive. The land was not designed to support such harvesting. We have been trying to promote simple, low-cost interventions and the onus is on locals to plan, implement and maintain. 

    Are you suggesting that there have to be policy-level changes? 

Very much so. The government has to change its mentality from looking at water harvesting as structural intervention to integrated ecology. That makes possible plans for systemic intervention, where all policies tie up with each other. Your readers will be astounded to hear that the ministry of agriculture decides on how much paddy is to be grown in an area without consulting the ministry of water resources on how much water is required! We need departmental convergence in planning and managing our present and future.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ADB and state government urged to postpone establishment of RBOs

ADB and state government urged to postpone establishment of RBOs

SAMBALPUR, INDIA, 8 Feb 11 -- The Water Initiative Odisha today challenged the IWRM plan of the State of Odisha and the ADB for their failure to conduct any consultation with local communities. WIO questioned the setting up of the River Basin Organization (RBO) without the involvement of the local people. "ADB admits the lack of time when it prepared its IWRM plan without adequate data. So what's with the rush then?" the group further said. Please find below the press release of WIO. 

Press Release
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)

What is the rush in pushing IWRM and RBO?

• Notification of Baitarani River Basin Organization (RBO) is another indicator of how people are displaced from the right to decision making
• When the IWRM plan is still in a draft phase and people of the state have not been amply consulted, notification for formation of the RBO is a clear cut violation of your own proposal.
• ADB admits the lack of time made it prepare the IWRM plan without adequate data. Why then is the rush?

The IWRM plan which was prepared by consultants favors corporate 
control over water. If implemented in this way, it will marginalize 
other stakeholders. Photo by Ranjan Panda/Water Initiative OdishaSAMBALPUR, INDIA, 8 Feb 11 -- From recent newspaper reports we came to know that the government of Odisha is deciding to consult all stakeholders before finalizing the IWRM plan.  We thank them for listening to us and this is a welcome step.  

However, their Resolution dated 4 September 2010 on “Constitution of Baitarani River Basin Organisation” makes it clear that they have gone ahead with the realization of this IWRM plan without any consultation. From the day when they made available the IWRM document to people who can only access internet, we at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) have been urging upon the government to ensure that they consult all the people to be affected by this plan and through pro-active initiatives of organizing consultations at all districts; disseminating the draft in Odia and through all other means that will ensure participation of the people.  While the government has not yet done any of these, they have published this Notification.  This clearly indicates that they are in a rush to push the plan at the behest of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).  

We call it ironic since a paper of ADB, written by Arnaud Cauchois, Senior Water Resource Management Specialist at the ADB, categorically mentioned how earlier IWRM spirals of the state has failed because the decisions were top-down.  

Here is a relevant portion of the paper for your reference. “The abortion of the second IWRM spiral with the withdrawal of the World Bank support revealed a lack of ownership and probably stakeholder awareness building and consultation.  As often in India, IWRM principles were introduced through a top-down approach. It was first promoted by the central administration, cascaded down to decision makers at state level and eventually to the DOWR bureaucracy.” 

We therefore urge upon the government of Odisha not to displace people from decision-making processes in critical issues such as water resource management.  Water has already become a scarce resource in the state. Preparing any management plan without proper consultation with all stakeholders will fuel further conflicts.

As per recent media reports, the ADB as well as the government officials have been maintaining that the government is independent of formulating its own plans and that the government of Odisha is not influenced by any outside organizations.  However, the same paper of Arnaud Cauchois narrates how the earlier reforms were supported by the World Bank and how the latest IWRM spiral is being supported by the ADB.  

The farmers of the state, who are the major stakeholders in water management, are already facing severe problems. The IWRM plan, if implemented, will make them further vulnerable. Photo by Ranjan Panda/Water Initiative OdishaThe paper by Arnaud says, “The Orissa Integrated Irrigated Agriculture and Water Management Investment Programme (OIIAWMIP) is one of the most recent initiatives. The program of around US$158 million started in 2008 and will be implemented over a period of 10 years. It combines irrigation infrastructure rehabilitation and upgrading with institutional reforms including support to the Orissa State Government in the establishment and operationalization of IWRM. For this purpose, the Baitarani river basin was selected for piloting the establishment and operationalization of IWRM including a river basin organization that could later be replicated to the other state's river basins. The pilot is still at an early stage between the identification and conceptualization of this new development phase of the basin.”   We urge upon the government and the ADB to come clear on this and take such crucial decisions with proper consultation with the people of the state.

We once again call upon the government not to hurry on the IWRM and Baitarani RBO formation without proper study on the present and future water availability and quality scenario.  In response to our reaction to the fact that this current Technical Assistance report on IWRM by ADB’s consultants was based on old data making it technically flawed, the ADB has responded to us on 8  January confirming that our apprehensions about accuracy of data to be true.  

We are reproducing below the relevant portion of the letter from ADB. “We agree that any reform process towards improving WRM should proceed with accurate, reliable, and updated data and information. While efforts were made by the consultants to collect the latest data from DOWR, this was not easy given the limited time frame. We are suggesting that DOWR would provide necessary data during the further process and are hopeful that this will be done.” 

In fact in December, WIO organized a public consultation on the proposed IWRM where farmers, civil society representatives, academia, water experts and other concerned across the state participated and rejected the current TA on this and several other grounds. 

Once again we urge upon the government not to rush with any such plan without making available proper data on the current water availability and clear-cut future projections considering all sectors and taking into account climate change scenarios. The current plan fails miserably on all those counts and hence cannot be accepted.

For further information, please contact:
Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Cell: +91-9437050103/9937561700

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organizations, 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, February 6, 2011

Thought of the day - 7th February 2011

Some people have the habit of making simple things look complex.  They keep pulling unnecessary strings in an issue and then find them in a situation where they spend all their time and energy in justifying their stand on the conflict itself…

Ranjan Panda 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Seed Crusader of India

Fortunate: we had with us one of the best agricultural scientists of India yesterday at Sambalpur.  Prakash Singh Raghuvanshi, an eight standard drop out, who is just a three and half acre small farmer, has developed 100s of indigenous seed varieties with wonderful production capacities.  He distributes his seeds for free to framers and asks to multiply them.  Ironically, our government goes to the MNCs to beg for terminator seeds...

Ranjan Panda

Thought of the day - 5th February 2011

To know about a person's attitude and nature, it is not always needed to see his/her face...

Ranjan Panda

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thought of the day - 4th February 2011

Had God not blessed humans with Death, we would have swallowed the earth by now.  Still we can't consider God a successful visionary because our abuse of earth is a world more than he could predict...

Ranjan Panda

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thought of the day -3rd February 2011

Once in a while it’s beneficial to reflect upon our journey so far.  My freshest reflection reveals that, had I run after Money, I would not have earned wonderful friends like you…

Ranjan Panda

Poster: POSCO U Turn of Jairam Ramesh

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thought of the day - 2nd February 2011

Some emotions are difficult to be explained, some feelings are difficult to be expressed. What one can do is to judge the reception of those by the person towards whom these are directed, from the silence or reaction by the other person... 

Ranjan Panda