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.

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