Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Most industries drawing water ‘unauthorisedly'

Most industries drawing water ‘unauthorisedly'


Of the 239 industries, 121 units found to be sourcing water illegally

The State government may be pursuing fast industrialisation for optimum utilisation of natural resources. But, on ground it seems to be altogether a different situation. More than half of the industries are found drawing water ‘unauthorisedly'.

Responding to a series of RTI applications, different circles of water resources department furnished information about water drawal by 239 industries from different sources – groundwater, river and reservoirs. Of these, 121 units were found to be sourcing water unauthorisedly.

Under Panposh subdivision in Sundargarh district, the unauthorised water use is highest among all the divisions. Of the 78 industrial units drawing water from different sources, 60 are found to be violating the norms. Water Resource Department sought police action against only four violators.

The violation is somewhat similar in Sundargarh Irrigation Division, where 44 industries have been drawing water from rivers such as Ib, Satei, Nakti Nulah, and Brahmani Nulah. However, the division has found 28 industrial units indulged in unauthorised drawal of water. FIRs have been lodged against eight units in different police stations. In Bonai division under the same district, 14 industrial and mining units were drawing water unauthorisedly.

In Keonjhar district, where people have been consistently complaining of falling of water table due to intensive mining, 11 out of 14 mines have been taking water illegally. However, the Water Resource Department allegedly never bothered to file a complaint with police.


Perhaps due to a series of public agitations and media focus on use of water from Hirakud reservoir, at present unauthorised drawal of water by industries is found to be nil. However, the Main Dam Division, Burla said public sector coal major Mahanadi Coalfields Limited had been fined Rs. 54.32 lakh for illegal water drawal from February 1 and June 30 this year. Another coal mine operator, Global Coal and Mines Private Limited, was accused of illegally drawing water for a period of more than three years from January 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011.

The Berhampur Irrigation Division, however, said Jayashree Chemicals Limited had challenged the notification regarding collection of industrial water tax. The company was drawing water by constructing intake in their own land within 30 metre of the left bank of River Rushikulya prior to 1994.

“In a similar Indian Rare Earths Limited near Chhatrapur is consuming 1,14,862 tonne litre per month. The company is not paying any water tax to this division and is reluctant to enter into fresh agreement,” the Berhampur Irrigation Division said in the reply.

During past few years, several public agitations have been built up protesting against drawal of water by industries.

Take Urgent Action on Draft Land Acquisition Bill - Tomorrow is the Deadline!!

Dear Friends and Co-sailors,

Greetings from Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) !

Analysis of the Draft National Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 by many experts and groups have already shown that this is most likely going to be used as a lollipop to allure people to part away with their lands for corporate and industrial interest in the name of so called 'development' that we know by now is abusive, atrocious and inequitable.  This lollipop will lead them to further deprivation, as Ramaswamy Iyer analyses in the below pasted article.  

The deadline to register our comments on the Draft Bill is tomorrow, i.e. 31st August, 2011.  All suggestions on this Bill be mailed to landacquisition.comments@gmail.com Alternately the suggestions could also be sent to:

The Office of the Minister of the Rural Development,
Room No. 48,
Krishi Bhawan,
New Delhi - 110 001

We at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) urge upon all of you to please register your critical comments and inputs.  

We are also demanding that the time for inputs for such an important Bill must be extended; the Bill must be made available in regional languages; and sufficient consultations must be facilitated by the Rural Development Ministry to get people from all sections of the society to comment and put forth their views.  

Hope you shall agree with the above three demands and urge upon Mr. Jairam Ramesh to consider.

In that case, along with your comments on the Draft Bill, you can also write a letter/memorandum to Mr. Jairam Ramesh incorporating the following points:

- That the proposed Bill will have far reaching consequences on the people of the nation, especially poor, tribal and other marginalized sections who have been constantly suffering for the so called national interest and other development projects.  Therefore, it is essential that this Bill be discussed among wider sections of these communities throughout the nation before being rushed for a decision in the Parliament.

- That the Rural Development Ministry must develop a mechanism for making this Bill reach to nooks and corners of the nation in regional and local languages and sufficient consultation be organised with the Ministry's facilitation and support so that the Bill is discussed and analyzed threadbare by all in the country and not just a few who are using internet and/or having other kinds of access to participating in the system.  

We are hopeful you shall consider taking URGENT ACTION on this issue.

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, WIO

A good Bill that disappoints

August 18, 2011

The Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 seems to be driven by a desire to make acquisition for industrialisation and urbanisation easier.

One started reading the new Draft National Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 with expectations of a great improvement over the 2007 Bills. There are indeed some very good features in the new Bill but, on the whole, one must regretfully report disappointment. Let us see how the Bill deals with some of the key issues involved.

(i) Acquisition of agricultural land: The Bill rules out the acquisition, not of all irrigated agricultural land, but of multi-cropped irrigated agricultural land. That limited exclusion seems rather half-hearted.

(ii) Avoiding or minimising displacement: A serious concern about the trauma of displacement does not seem to be the driving force behind the Bill. The principles of ‘no forced displacement' and ‘free, informed prior consent' are not mentioned. (Incidentally, the condition of consent by 80 per cent of the land-owners applies only to land-acquisition by the government for companies including PPP cases, and not to governmental acquisition for itself. It appears that there has been no dilution at all of ‘eminent domain'.) There are indeed a number of good provisions relating to displacement (SIA, review of SIA by an Expert Committee, consideration of ‘less displacing alternative', public hearing, etc.), but the final decision is that of the bureaucracy. If a statutory clearance is needed for cutting a tree or for causing an environmental impact, should it not be required for displacing people? If the National Rehabilitation Commission mentioned in the 2007 Bill had been retained, a statutory displacement clearance by it could have been prescribed, but the present Bill envisages no such Commission.

(iii) Inadequacy of compensation: The present Bill increases the compensation amount significantly. This is welcome. Whether the earlier problems of delays and corruption in the payment process will disappear or diminish, remains to be seen.

(iv) The acquisition of land by the state for private companies: A view, held by many for a long time, is that there is no reason why the state should use its sovereign power to acquire land for private companies which are primarily in business for profit and not for conferring benefits on the public.

The 2007 Bills had sought to reduce the extent of land acquisition by the state for a company to 30 per cent , if the company purchases 70 per cent of the land needed by negotiation. The present Bill does away with the 70:30 formula, but provides for ‘partial' acquisition by the state for a company if a company so requests. Presumably ‘partial' acquisition could go up to near-full acquisition by the state. This seems a retrograde step.

(v) Private purchase: As for private negotiation, the Minister himself refers in his Foreword to the “asymmetry of power (and information) between those wanting to acquire the land and those whose lands are being acquired”, but the Bill provides no mechanism to reduce that asymmetry. It doubtless extends the R&R provisions to private negotiated purchases of land but provides no safeguard against unfair negotiation. (Even the extension of the R&R provisions to negotiated purchases — the legality of which may be challenged — applies only where a company buys 100 acres or more, and that threshold can be easily side-stepped in ways that need not be spelt out here.) One wishes that the Minister had strengthened the hands of the weaker party in the negotiation by providing — this is merely an illustration — that the compensation that the land-owners would have got under this Bill if the land had been acquired by the government (to be determined by the collector) would be the floor below which the price negotiated by the company with the land-owners shall not fall.

(vi) Change of land use: That safeguard might ensure a fair price, but there is also the question of transfer of agricultural land to non-agricultural use and the implications for food security. One possibility might be to say that all acquisition of land, including acquisitions for companies, must be only by the state; but that does not seem desirable and, in any case, it is not really an answer to the problem of land-transfer away from agriculture. Another possibility is that private purchases of agricultural land should be subject to state regulation from the point of view of land-use. That might be open to the objection of undue interference with a landowner's right to sell his land. On the whole, the answer to the question of minimising transfers of agricultural land to non-agricultural use might lie in policies supportive of agriculture rather than in control or regulation over land transactions.

(vii) Definition of ‘public purpose': An issue that has persistently figured in the debate during the last decade or two is the need to narrow the definition of ‘public purpose' and limit it to a few strictly governmental purposes (schools, dispensaries, etc). The present Bill moves in exactly the opposite direction. It defines ‘public purpose' very broadly and leaves it to the bureaucracy to decide each case. Is it right to assume that any industry ipso facto serves a public purpose warranting the alienation of agricultural land? For instance, in the Singur episode land acquisition was for ‘industry', i.e., Tatas' small car factory; was that ‘public purpose'? It can be so declared under the present Bill. Again, ‘infrastructure' includes ‘tourism', which would permit the acquisition of land for building hotels. It seems desirable to define ‘public purpose' somewhat more stringently.

(viii) Coverage of ‘project-affected persons': The Bill refers to loss of primary livelihoods but links it to the acquisition of land. The term ‘livelihoods' is illustrated by a reference to the gathering of forest produce, hunting, fishing, etc; there is no reference to sellers of goods and services to the people in the project area, who will lose their livelihoods when the people whom they serve move away to resettlement areas. It is not clear whether they will be regarded as project-affected persons.

(ix) Social Impact Assessment: On Social Impact Assessment the present Bill is an improvement on the 2007 Bill, but the idea of SIA still falls short: it does not cover the disappearance of a whole way of life; the dispersal of close-knit communities; the loss of a centuries-old relationship with nature; the loss of roots; and so on. It is good that the SIA will be reviewed by an independent multi-disciplinary expert body, but it should first be prepared by a similar body. The Bill leaves the SIA to be prepared by the “appropriate government.”

(x) Rehabilitation package: The rehabilitation package is distinctly inferior to the packages already established in certain projects. The principle of ‘land for land' has been abandoned. It figures only in the case of irrigation projects, and there the Bill envisages one acre per family instead of two acres as in the Sardar Sarovar Project. There are two points here. First, it is not clear why the Bill specifies irrigation projects; hydroelectric projects and flood control also have the same impacts as irrigation projects, and in any case many projects are ‘multi-purpose' projects. Secondly, compensation and rehabilitation should have reference not to the nature of the project but to the nature of the impact. Whatever be the project, if an agricultural community is uprooted from its land and homestead, it has to be enabled to practise agriculture elsewhere, and not expected to become carpenters or weavers or traders.

(xi) Other matters: A number of officials and institutions are specified in the Bill, such as the Collector, Administrator of R&R, Commissioner of R&R, etc., but it is only in the R&R Committee that there is a significant non-official presence. The National Monitoring Committee is not ‘participatory'; apart from officials, it includes only a few experts. As indicated earlier, the idea of a National Rehabilitation Commission has been abandoned.

Incidentally, it is not clear why displacement by natural calamities should be brought within the purview of this Bill. There is a vital difference between unavoidable displacement caused by nature and deliberate displacement caused by human decisions.

Summing up, the Bill seems to be essentially driven by a desire to make land acquisition for industrialisation and urbanisation easier. It is clear that the Bill, which does contain many good features, nevertheless requires substantial improvement.

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

R-3/A-4, J. M. Colony, Budharaja
Sambalpur 768 004, Odisha, INDIA
Mobile: +919437050103
Email: ranjanpanda@gmail.comranjanpanda@yahoo.com
You can also mail me at: ranjan.waterman@facebook.com

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader

Please join our group 'Save Rivers Save Civilizations' at http://www.facebook.com/groups/220598744649462

Kiss the rain when you can, because water and abundance are falling apart...(Ranjan Panda)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Drought Update I from WIO - 27th August 2011

Drought Update I from Water Initiatives Odisha
27th August 2011

Dear co-sailors,

Fifteen years ago, Water Initiatives Odisha(WIO) had started the habit of compiling Drought and Flood Updates for the state of Odisha and we used to share these among people, policy makers, media, academicians and other concerned.  That time we did it through print papers and distributed photocopied updates.  After continuing the effort for a few years, we could not keep up with the pace of the droughts, floods and disasters and stopped the effort a decade back.  However, we kept on sending occasional updates from time to time via the internet and also through our print publications.  Our friends and well-wishers have been asking us to start it again and we have too realised that the need for regular updates has become more vital than ever before with drought and disasters assuming new and gigantic proportions under new conditions of rapid industrialization and climate change.  We are thus resuming the effort.

The format would however be the same: a simple compilation of news and views on drought and related issues sourced from newspapers, research reports, field studies and all other sources we can have access to.  We keep it simple also to reach out to maximum number of people possible. 

At the moment, it’s occasional and we may come up with these updates as and when we can, given our limited manpower and resources.  However, with your inputs and support, we are sure; we shall be able to ensure regular flow of this update. 

We request you to send in your reports of activities, your views; and any other interesting and relevant article, books, photographs, and anything that you feel we should cover in this Update.  It’s YOU who is the most important FUEL of this effort.

Look forward to listen from you and your continued support.
Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha

Another farmer commits suicide!

Samir Kumar Nayak of Ramtileimal village in Kuchinda sub-division of Sambalpur district was just 25 when he killed himself owing to failure of his crops.  Samir was the only son of Pankaj Kumar Nayak who has been leading a paralyzed life due to illness for some years now.  Samir took over to farming when he father could not manage anymore because of two consecutive drought years.  He consumed pesticide on 17th of this month and was hospitalized; succumbed to death on 26th.  Samir inherited a cooperative loan amounting to Rs.83280/- from his father and had borrowed another Rs.50000/- from private sources.  He also had another loan of Rs.25000/- from the State Bank of India.  Failed crops and an absence of any support system has resulted in Samir taking this extreme step.  In the meanwhile the government of Odisha is still calculating the effect of drought to be able to declare ‘drought prone areas’!
(Sourced from Dharitri, 27th August 2011)


Opposition demands white paper on drought situation in Orissa

Claiming that agricultural activities were badly hit in 19 of the 30 districts in Orissa due to erratic rainfall, opposition Congress and BJP today asked the government to issue a white paper on the situation.

Raising the issue during zero hour, opposition members sought special package for farmers and declaration of drought in the state."I am surprised the state government is yet to undertake eye estimation of crop loss due to erratic rains,"said leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh of Congress.

Stating that the government had no specific policy to deal with the situation, Congress member S S Saluja claimed that farmer suicide cases were being reported in the state due to lack of protection for the agrarian community.

"Government should immediately release special package for farmers without waiting for the eye estimation report on crop loss due to inadequate rainfall,"said BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo adding farmers need adequate assistance to ensure survival of the standing crop.

Earlier, Revenue and Disaster Management minister S N Patro while replying a written question, said that the state government had already asked the district collectors to submit eye estimation report on crop loss by August 31.


Samajwadi Party Orissa unit demands pension for farmers

The Orissa unit of the Samajwadi Party today demanded the state government to pay a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 to every farmer and fix the Minimum Support price of paddy at Rs 1,500 per quintal to prevent the farmers committing suicide and as a measure to combat the drought. In a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Speaker P K Amat, the party also demanded the government to provide interest free loan, fertiliser and seed to farmers free of cost for the rabi crop and undertake massive work under the MNREGS to check migration. The party demanded that an all party meeting be held under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to put pressure on the Prime Minister to announce a special package for the drought hit districts of Orissa Party president Rabi Behera demanded arrest all those who were involved in the loan,seeds and fertiliser scam. Prior to the submission of the memorandum the party activists held a demonstration in front of the state Assembly here in support of their demands.


Met Speaks

-          From 0830 to 1730 hours IST of today, fairly widespread rainfall has occurred over Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gangetic West Bengal and Telangana; scattered over Haryana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, east Rajasthan and isolated over rest parts of the country outside Punjab and Tamilnadu where weather remained mainly dry . The chief amounts of rainfall (2 cm and above) recorded at 1730 hours IST of today are: Chandrapur12, Bilaspur8, Bhubaneshwar7, Nizamabad and Bramhapuri5 each, Udaipur, Kota, Balasore, Betul and Angul 3 each, Dehradun, Mahabaleshwar, Ranchi, Port Blair, Dharmsala, Sambalpur, Meerut, Wardha, Narsinghapur and Agumbe 2 each.

-          Kalpana1 cloud imagery at 1730 hours IST shows convective clouds over parts of Rajasthan, ujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, northeastern states, interior Maharashtra, north Andhra Pradesh, north interior Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea and Arabian Sea. Low/medium clouds are seen over rest parts of the country.

Source: India Meteorological Department’s All India Weather Bulletin (Night) for 26th August 2011
Water Initiatives Odisha: Fighting water woes, combating climate change... more than two decades now!

R-3/A-4, J. M. Colony, Budharaja
Sambalpur 768 004, Odisha, INDIA
Mobile: +919437050103
Email: ranjanpanda@gmail.comranjanpanda@yahoo.com
You can also mail me at: ranjan.waterman@facebook.com

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader

Please join our group 'Save Rivers Save Civilizations' at http://www.facebook.com/groups/220598744649462

Kiss the rain when you can, because water and abundance are falling apart...(Ranjan Panda)

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sindhol Project Update III by WIO

Sindhol Project Update III from Water Initiatives Odisha - 24th August 2011

Clear the air on Sindhol

The moves so far on this controversial hydro power project has been more political game rather than a procedural intervention.  Water Initiatives Odisha(WIO) has urged upon the government of Odisha to first clear the air on the project design and other related issues before moving any further.  WIO has also made it clear that the project is uncalled for without making a comprehensive analysis of water and energy scenario of the state; and if it displaces people and submerges agriculture land and forests.

The Sindhol project has sparked strong resentment among people in the affected districts in western Odisha.  There are hardly any details on the project available in public domain.  This creates confusion among people and also casts doubts over the government's true intention behind it. 

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) earlier raised concerns over its socio-economic and ecological impacts. We apprehend this to be merely a ‘reservoir creation project’ to centralize storage of river water for supply to upcoming industries in the region.  (For further details, please see our earlier updates on the issue posted in this blog).

However, the way the government has been moving ahead with the project ever since signing of the MoU with OHPC and NHPC, we are apprehensive that the project is a political game rather than any hydroelectric project, at least for now.  We urge upon the government to clear this air and take things through proper procedures.

The energy minister of the state has been, time and again, telling that the design of the project has changed so that there is no submergence and displacement of people.  However, he has never disclosed the new design; not even in the floor of the house.  We therefore question whether such a design exists.  Even for mega projects like POSCO facts have been disclosed as soon as MoUs were signed.  Why then the government is refusing to doll out the detailed plans and designs for this project? 

We demand a Detailed Project Report (DPR) to be made public. 

After the house saw storms over the issue, the speaker of the Assembly decided that a ‘house committee’ will be formed which will conduct public hearings and give report to the government.  He also said that there would be ‘no work’ until that is done.  We have serious objections to this move. 

When there is no DPR available, on what basis the house committee will conduct public hearing? 

Further, what are the procedural mechanisms established for such a public hearing that can take ‘free, prior and informed participation’ of the people?  Has an Environmental Impact Assessment been done?  If not, how will this committee investigate into it and on what basis? When the project is just at a MoU signing level, what ‘work’ does the speaker refers to which will not be done until the house committee reports on the matter?  The casual approach in which the government has moved so far, giving a complete miss to proper procedural requirements, makes us believe that the real intention of the project is not to initiate any hydro project but merely a political game being played by the government.  Or the government is simply taking the people for a ride? Clarity needs to be couched up on this.

WIO urges upon the government to shun this casual approach on such a sensitive issue and come out with a DPR that narrates the complete technical design and feasibility of the project; the impacts it will have on the people and biodiversity.  It must also first carry out a cumulative assessment of the river Mahanadi (including the use and abuse of the river by Chhattisgarh; and considering both upper and lower basin impacts) before going in for any new project or allocating water to any new industry or power plant.  WIO has been apprehending that the Sindhol Project, if at all it is being seriously thought up by the government, is a project to create water reservoirs to be supplied to the upcoming industries and power plants in the area.  The government must clear the air on this too.

WIO also urges upon the government to look into the history of the NHPC and its efficiency in building hydro power projects.  According to the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), NHPC has a very bad track record not only in social and environmental issues but also in technical, safety and economic issues.  It has not succeeded anywhere in non-Himalayan projects, informs the SANDRP.  The government, therefore, must clarify as to whether it has looked into the efficiency of the NHPC or not before signing the agreement and also make it public what procedures were followed to enter into a pact with NHPC.

WIO also urges upon the government to publish a white paper on the power generation scenario of the state at present from all sources including all captive thermal power plants.  It would like to ask the government ‘has there been any audit of the power efficiency of all these sources?’  If yes, the government must make it public and justify the reasons for going for more power projects at the cost of the people, the environment and the river.  We sincerely feel Odisha is a power surplus state and it should not increase its power generation capacity only to sell extra power at the cost of the people and the environment.

For further details, please contact us at:

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, WIO

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

R-3/A-4, J. M. Colony, Budharaja
Sambalpur 768 004, Odisha, INDIA
Mobile: +919437050103
Email: ranjanpanda@gmail.comranjanpanda@yahoo.com
You can also mail me at: ranjan.waterman@facebook.com

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader

Please oin our group 'Save Rivers Save Civilizations' at http://www.facebook.com/groups/220598744649462

Kiss the rain when you can, because water and abundance are falling apart...(Ranjan Panda)

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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sindhol Hydropower Project is a Conspiracy to Privatize Water

ସିଣ୍ଢୋଲ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ: ଜଳ ଘରୋଇକରଣ ପାଇଁ ଚକ୍ରାନ୍ତ

ଯଦି ସରକାର ସ୍ୱଚ୍ଛତାରେ ବିଶ୍ୱାସ କରୁଥାନ୍ତେ, ତା’ହେଲେ ପ୍ରଥମେ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପର ସବିଶେଷ ତଥ୍ୟ ଲୋକଙ୍କ ପାଖରେ ଥୋଇଥାନ୍ତେ ଏବଂ ଗ୍ରାମସଭାରୁ ନେଇ ଉପରସ୍ତର ପର୍ଯ୍ୟନ୍ତ ଆଲୋଚନା କରି ରାଜିନାମା ସ୍ୱାକ୍ଷର କରିଥାନ୍ତେ।
ରଞ୍ଜନ ପଣ୍ଡା,ସାମାଜିକ କର୍ମୀ ଓ ପରିବେଶବିତ୍ | Issue Dated: ସେପ୍ଟେମ୍ବର 22, 2011
ଆମ ସରକାରଙ୍କୁ ଏବେ ବିଦୁୟତ ଉତ୍ପାଦନର ଚସକା ଜୋରରେ ଲାଗିଛି। ମୁଖ୍ୟତଃ କୋଇଲା ଖଣି, ପାଣି ଓ ସରକାରୀ ସ୍ତରରେ ଇଚ୍ଛାଶକ୍ତି ଥିଲେ ଯାଇ କୌଣସି ରାଜ୍ୟ ବିଦୁୟତ ଉତ୍ପାଦନ ପାଇଁ ଏତେ ଉଗ୍ର ରୂପରେ ପଦକ୍ଷେପ ନେଇପାରେ। କୁହାଯାଏ, ଆମ ରାଜ୍ୟରେ ସେ ସବୁ ଭରପୁର ଗଚ୍ଛିତ ଅଛି। ବର୍ତ୍ତମାନ ଯେଭଳି ଭାବରେ ଆର୍ଥିକ ବିକାଶ ଆଉ ତା’ ସହିତ ତାଳଦେଇ ସହରୀକରଣ ବିସ୍ତାରିତ ହେଉଛି, ଆମ ସରକାରଙ୍କ ପାଖରେ ଭଲ ସୁଯୋଗ ଜୁଟିଯାଇଛି ରାଜ୍ୟ ପାଣି, ପରିବେଶ ଓ ଲୋକଙ୍କ ସ୍ୱାର୍ଥକୁ ଜଳାଞ୍ଜଳି ଦେଇ କେବଳ ଶିଳ୍ପ, ଅନ୍ୟରାଜ୍ୟ ଓ ସହରାଞ୍ଚଳ ପାଇଁ ବିଦ୍ୟୁତ ଉତ୍ପାଦନ କରିବେ ଆଉ ବିକିବେ। ସିଣ୍ଢୋଲ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ଏହାର ସଦ୍ୟତମ ଉଦାହରଣ।
ହୀରାକୁଦ ନଦୀବନ୍ଧର ବିଭୀଷିକା ଏବେଯାଏଁ ଆମେ ଭୋଗୁଛୁ। ସେଇଥିପାଇଁ ଯେହେତୁ ସିଣ୍ଢୋଲ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ପ୍ରସ୍ତାବ ସରକାର ଆଣିଛନ୍ତି। ଏ ଅଞ୍ଚଳର ଲୋକେ ତା’ର ଦୃଢ ବିରୋଧ କରିଛନ୍ତି। ଏଥରର ବିରୋଧ କିନ୍ତୁ ଆଗ
ଅପେକ୍ଷା ଅଲଗା। ଏବେ କେବଳ ବିସ୍ଥାପନର ସମସ୍ୟାକୁ ଦେଖିଲେ ଚଳିବନି। ବର୍ତ୍ତମାନ ପରିସ୍ଥିତିରେ ଅନ୍ୟାନ୍ୟ ବହୁ କାରଣ ପାଇଁ ଏ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ଏକ ଅବାସ୍ତବ କଳ୍ପନା ବୋଲି କୁହାଯାଇପାରିବ। ସବୁରି ମୂଳରେ ରହିଛି ପାଣି ଏବଂ ନଦୀର ଜୀବନ। ଯଦିଓ ସରକାରୀ ଯନ୍ତ୍ରୀ ଓ ମନ୍ତ୍ରୀ ଲୋକଙ୍କୁ ଭୁଆଁ ବୁଲାଉଛନ୍ତି ଯେ ମହାନଦୀରେ ଢେର ପାଣି ଅଛି ଏବଂ ଦ୍ରୁତ ଶିଳ୍ପାୟନ ଦ୍ୱାରା ୟା' ଉପରେ କୌଣସି କୁପ୍ରଭାବ ପଡ଼ିବ ନାହିଁ। ଏହା ଡାହା ମିଛ। ବିଗତ ବର୍ଷମାନଙ୍କର ତଥ୍ୟକୁ ବିଶ୍ଳେଷଣ କଲେ ଜାଣିହେବ ଯେ ମହାନଦୀରେ ଯଦିଓ ବର୍ଷ।ଦିନେ ବନ୍ୟାଜଳ ବହୁଥିବାରୁ ଆମକୁ ଜଣାପଡ଼େ ଏ ନଦୀରେ ପାଣି ବହୁତ। ବର୍ଷ। ମାସକୁ ଛାଡିଦେଲେ ବାକି ସବୁ ମାସରେ ନଦୀଟି ପ୍ରାୟ ସମସ୍ତ ଜାଗାରେ ଶୁଖିଲା ଥାଏ। ନଦୀର ଏହି ମୁମୂର୍ଷୁ ଅବସ୍ଥା ପାଇଁ ହୀରାକୁଦ ନଦୀବନ୍ଧ ମୁଖ୍ୟତଃ ଦାୟୀ। ବିଶ୍ୱର ସବୁ ଜାଗାରେ ନଦୀବନ୍ଧ ଦ୍ୱାରା ଏହି ସମସ୍ୟା ସୃଷ୍ଟି ହୋଇଛି। ହୀରାକୁଦ ତା’ର ମୂଳଉଦ୍ଦେଶ୍ୟ (ବନ୍ୟା ନିୟନ୍ତ୍ରଣରେ) ସାଧନରେ ପ୍ରାୟତଃ ଅସଫଳ ହୋଇଛି ତା’ ନୁହେଁ, ମହାନଦୀର ଏହି ଆସନ୍ନ ମୃତ୍ୟୁ ପାଇଁ ମଧ୍ୟ ଏହାର ମୂଖ୍ୟ ଭୂମିକା ରହିଛି।
ବର୍ଷ। କମିଯିବା ସହିତ, ଉପର ମୁଣ୍ଡରେ ଛତିଶଗଡ଼ ଦ୍ୱାରା ଅନେକ କଳକାରଖାନାକୁ ପାଣି ଦେବା ଏବଂ ଚେକ୍ ଡ୍ୟାମ ନିର୍ମ।ଣ ଦ୍ୱାରା ନଦୀର ସୁଅ କମିବାରେ ଲାଗିଛି। ହୀରାକୁଦ ତଥା ଏହାର ଉପନଦୀମାନଙ୍କୁ ଓଡ଼ିଶା ସରକାର ମଧ୍ୟ ଅନେକ କଳାକାରଖାନାଙ୍କୁ  ଅନ୍ଧାଧୁନ ପାଣି ଦେଉଛନ୍ତି। ଏସବୁର ପ୍ରଭାବ ହୀରାକୁଦ ଜଳଭଣ୍ଡାରର ଜଳଧାରଣ ଓ ବିଜୁଳି ଉତ୍ପାଦନ କ୍ଷମତା ଉପରେ ପଡ଼ିଛି। ଗତ ପାଞ୍ଚ ଦଶନ୍ଧିରୁ ଊର୍ଦ୍ଧ୍ୱ ଧରି ଏହି କ୍ଷମତା ଦ୍ରୁତଗତିରେ ହ୍ରାସ ପାଉଛି। ଏଥିପାଇଁ ଚିପିଲିମା ଠାରେ ଆଉ ବିଦ୍ୟୁତ ଉତ୍ପାଦନ ହେଉନି କହିଲେ ଚଳେ। କଳକାରଖାନା ଓ ସହରୀକରଣ ପ୍ରଦୂଷଣ ଭାର ମଧ୍ୟ ସିଧାସଳଖ ମହାନଦୀ ଜଳ ଉପରେ ସଙ୍କଟ ହୋଇ ଛିଡ଼ା ହୋଇଛି। ନଦୀକୁ ବଞ୍ଚି ରହିବା ପାଇଁ ଯେତେ ପାଣି ଦରକାର ଏବଂ ଏହାକୁ ତଥା ୟା' ଉପରେ ନିର୍ଭର କରୁଥିବା ପରିବେଶର ଉତ୍ତମ ସ୍ୱାସ୍ଥ୍ୟ ବଜାୟ ରଖିବା ପାଇଁ ଯେଉ ପ୍ରାକୃତିକ ବ୍ୟବସ୍ଥା କାଏମ ରହିବା କଥା, ତାହା ଆଜି ସଙ୍କଟାପନ୍ନ। ପୁଣି ଜଳବାୟୁ ପରିବର୍ତ୍ତନ ପାଇଁ ନଦୀରେ ପାଣି କମି କମି ଆସୁଛି ବୋଲି ମଧ୍ୟ ଗବେଷଣାରୁ ଜଣାପଡିଲାଣି। ପ୍ରଶ୍ନ ହେଲା, ଏତେ ସବୁ ସମସ୍ୟାକୁ ନଜର ଅନ୍ଦାଜ କରି ସରକାର କ’ଣ ପାଇଁ ସିଣ୍ଢୋଲ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ଲାଗି ଏତେ ତତ୍ପର?
ଏ ପ୍ରଶ୍ନର ଉତ୍ତର ସରକାର ନଦେଲେ ମଧ୍ୟ, ତାଙ୍କର କାର୍ଯ୍ୟଶୈଳୀ ଏବଂ ମନ୍ତ୍ରୀମାନଙ୍କ ବୟାନବାଜିରୁ ଜଣାପଡ଼ୁଛି ଯେ ଏହି ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ଜଳବିଦ୍ୟୁତ ଉତ୍ପାଦନ ପାଇଁ ନୁହେଁ ବରଂ ତାପଜ ବିଦ୍ୟୁତ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ସବୁକୁ ଜଳ ଶସ୍ତାରେ ଯୋଗାଇବାର ଏକ ଚକ୍ରାନ୍ତ। ଆମ ସରକାର କୋଇଲା ଜାଳି ପ୍ରାୟ 58,000 ମେଗାୱାଟ୍ ତାପଜ ବିଦ୍ୟୁତ ଉତ୍ପାଦନ ଲକ୍ଷ୍ୟ ରଖିଛନ୍ତି। ଏହି ସବୁ ବିଦ୍ୟୁତ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ପାଇଁ ପ୍ରଚୁର ପରିମାଣରେ ଜଳ ଦରକାର। ହୀରାକୁଦ ଜଳକୁ କାରଖାନାମାନଙ୍କୁ ଦିଆଯାଉଥିବାରୁ ଯେଉ ବିରାଟ ଚାଷୀ ଆନ୍ଦୋଳନ ମୁଣ୍ଡ ଟେକିଲା ସେଥିରୁ ସରକାର ଭଲ ଶିକ୍ଷା ପାଇ ସାରିଛନ୍ତି। ସେ ଜାଣିଛନ୍ତି ଯେ ଏପରି ଆନ୍ଦୋଳନର ଏହା ଆରମ୍ଭ ମାତ୍ର। ଆଗକୁ ଖଣି, କଳକାରଖାନା ଓ ତାପଜ ବିଦ୍ୟୁତ କେନ୍ଦ୍ର ପାଇଁ ଯେତେ ପାଣି ଦରକାର ସେସବୁ ଦେବା ପାଇଁ ଚାଷ ଓ ପାନୀୟ ଜଳ ଯୋଗାଣ ଲାଗି ଉର୍ଦ୍ଦିଷ୍ଟ ଜଳରୁ ଜୋର ଜବରଦସ୍ତ ଛଡେଇ ଆଣିବାକୁ ପଡ଼ିବ ଏବଂ ଏଥିପାଇଁ ଜନ ଆନ୍ଦୋଳନ ଆହୁରି ଜୋର ଧରିବ। ତେଣୁ ମୁଳୁ ମାରିଲେ ଯିବ ସରି ନୀତିରେ ଯେଉ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପକୁ ଆଉ ବିଚାରକୁ ନିଆଯାଉନାହିଁ ବୋଲି ଖୋଦ୍ ମୁଖ୍ୟମନ୍ତ୍ରୀ ପ୍ରତିଶ୍ରୁତି ଦେଇସାରିଥିଲେ ତାକୁ ପୁଣି ଉଜ୍ଜୀବିତ କରାଗଲାଣି। ତାହା ପୁଣି ଏମିତି ସମୟରେ ଯେବେ ମହାନଦୀ ପାଣିକୁ ନେଇ ଉପର ମୁଣ୍ଡରୁ ତଳ ମୁଣ୍ଡଯାଏଁ  ଅନେକ ଆନ୍ଦୋଳନ ଛିଡା ହେଲାଣି।
ଯଦି ସରକାର ସ୍ୱଚ୍ଛତାରେ ବିଶ୍ୱାସ କରୁଥାନ୍ତି, ତା’ହେଲେ ସେ ସର୍ବପ୍ରଥମେ ଏହି ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପର ସବିଶେଷ ତଥ୍ୟ ଲୋକଙ୍କ ପାଖରେ ଥୋଇଥାନ୍ତେ ଏବଂ ଗ୍ରାମ ସଭାରୁ ନେଇ ଉପରସ୍ତର ପର୍ଯ୍ୟନ୍ତ ଆଲୋଚନା ପର୍ଯ୍ୟ।ଲୋଚନା କରି ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ରାଜିନାମା ସ୍ୱାକ୍ଷର କରିଥାନ୍ତେ। ମହାନଦୀର ପାଣି ଓ ପରିବେଶ ଉପରେ ଏକ ସଂପୂର୍ଣ୍ଣ ଗବେଷଣା କରି ଏହାର ଜଳଧାରଣର ବର୍ତ୍ତମାନ ଓ ଭବିଷ୍ୟତକୁ ନେଇ ସମସ୍ତ ପ୍ରକାର ଅନୁଧ୍ୟାନ କଲା ପରେ ଏହି ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ କଥା ଚିନ୍ତା କରିଥାନ୍ତେ। ଏବେ କେବଳ ଗୋଟିଏ କଥା ଶୁଣିବାକୁ ମିଳୁଛି, ଏ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପରେ ପୂର୍ବ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ଅପେକ୍ଷା କମ୍ କ୍ଷୟକ୍ଷତି ହେବ। ସେ ସବୁର ସତ୍ୟତା ନାହିଁ, କାହିଁକି ନା ସିଣ୍ଢୋଲ ଏକ ବୃହତ ଜଳବିଦ୍ୟୁତ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ଏବଂ ପୁରୁଣା ବୈଷୟିକ ଢାଞ୍ଚାରେ  ଯଦି ବ୍ୟାରେଜର ଉଚ୍ଚତା କମିଯିବ ତାହେଲେ ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପର ଜଳବିଦୁୟତ ଉତ୍ପାଦନ କ୍ଷମତା ଢେର କମିଯିବ। ଏଥିରୁ ସହଜରେ ଅନୁମେୟ ସିଣ୍ଢୋଲ ଏକ ‘ଜଳାଶୟ' ପ୍ରକଳ୍ପ ମାତ୍ର।  ଯାହା ଜଳ ଘରୋଇକରଣର ଏକ ସୁଚିନ୍ତିତ ଚକ୍ରାନ୍ତକୁ ସାକାର କରିବ।
(ଉକ୍ତସ୍ତମ୍ଭରେ ପ୍ରକାଶିତ ମତ ଲେଖକଙ୍କର ନିଜସ୍ୱ)

Source: http://thesundayindian.com/or/story/%E0%AC%B8%E0%AC%BF%E0%AC%A3%E0%AD%8D%E0%AC%A2%E0%AD%8B%E0%AC%B2-%E0%AC%AA%E0%AD%8D%E0%AC%B0%E0%AC%95%E0%AC%B3%E0%AD%8D%E0%AC%AA-%EF%BF%BD%EF%BF%BD%E0%AC%B3-%EF%BF%BD%EF%BF%BD%E0%AC%B0%E0%AD%8B%E0%AC%87%E0%AC%95%E0%AC%B0%E0%AC%A3-%E0%AC%AA%E0%AC%BE%E0%AC%87%E0%AC%81-%E0%AC%9A%E0%AC%95%E0%AD%8D%E0%AC%B0%E0%AC%BE%E0%AC%A8%E0%AD%8D%E0%AC%A4/7/1063/

... And the next fight: water

... And the next fight: water

Shalini Singh, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 20, 2011

While conflicts over land continue, experts warn that the next big struggle in India will be for water. As our population moves from rural to urban areas, industrialisation and urbanisation are leading to increasing pressure on the country’s natural resources. “Besides land, water is needed for new growth and the transition to a modern economy. So now we are looking at allocation of water from agriculture to industry and urban areas,” says Sunita Narain, director-general of Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment. But this shift she says is neither being considered nor addressed leading to conflict.

Many recent examples illustrate this simmering unrest: two died in police firing earlier this year over  the Kakarapalli power project in Andhra Pradesh; in Gujarat, a common waterbody was handed over to a cement factory; three people were killed in a police firing over a water-supply issue in Maval, near Pune, last week.

Ranjan Panda, convenor of Water Initiatives Orissa, who has been working in this field for nearly 25 years says India’s growth models don’t seem to be in consonance with ecology. “The Orissa government is planning 58,000 megawatts of power from coal power plants in the coming years. At its peak, Orissa does not need more than 4,000 megawatts for use. The rest will be produced to sell to urban areas, while these plants will be located in rural areas,” he says.

Water disputes (inter-sector, inter-use, inter-area) are dealt with in some countries through market forces and pricing says Ramaswamy R Iyer, the principal draftsman of India’s first national water policy in 1987. South Africa follows a system of  allocations and ‘general authorisation,’ he says. “Some have River Boards or River Basin institutions. In India, Maharashtra has set up a state-level Water Resources Regulatory Authority under the influence of the World Bank. A few other states have followed suit. All this is currently under discussion,” he adds. Experts such as Panda say a national water law is needed, given that the current water policy in India has no judicial standing. “The basic issue is that right over water must be the basic right of every citizen,” he says.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reforms in water sector is biased towards favoring the rich: Ranjan Panda

Dear All,

Please read my exclusive interview published in OrissaDiary.Com.

Hope you will find it interesting.

Look forward to your kind comments and suggestions.

Thanks and regards,


Reforms in water sector is biased towards favoring the rich: Ranjan Panda
Friday, August 12, 2011
Ranjan Panda was crowned as the NDTV-Toyata Green hero in December 2010 for his contribution toward environment protection by way of renovation of the traditional water harvesting techniques in Western Odisha districts like Sambalpur and Bargarh. He was earlier profiled as a Climate Crusader by NDTV and is the writer of a book on Traditional Water Harvesting Practices of Western Odisha. He is the convener of Water Initiative Odisha and founder of Organsiation Manav Adhikar Seva Samiti (MASS). Panda , known as the Waterman of Odisha, speaks exclusively to Pradeep Baisakh, Senior Editor, OrissaDiary.com on the traditional water harvesting techniques, the agro-industry conflict, water distribution and the ADB promoted water reforms plan in Odisha.

 You have won the NDTV-TOYATA Green Hero award, a prestigious award for work on environment. What is your reaction?

Ranjan Panda: An award is a recognition and responsibility at the same time.  I am happy not only because I got this  first ever national green awards launched by NDTV, but also because this is where our work has been recognized by an independent group after following us and our work for several years.  At a time, when many awards are in reality lobbied for, this is a recognition you get without even applying for it or knowing that you were being tracked for years.  Responsibility, I say, because the work that people like us are doing is getting rare by the day.  We are in a world where environmentalism is increasingly being seen in parlance with naxalism and terrorism. If you seriously talk and work for environment the entire human race, which has forgotten its root of existence and its responsibility towards the mother earth, will consider that you are actually committing a crime.  If you become the voice of the alive but dumb ecology, you will be crushed in several ways.  We are happy blindly urbanizing and discriminately industrializing; and in the process, eating up all other species and beings on earth.  Ironically, we are eating up our own future and call ourselves educated!  So, this award is a responsibility to keep on to the difficult task of siding with the environment and fighting against the deadly human race.

Can you very briefly narrate us your work on water harvesting?Ranjan Panda: In fact our work goes beyond water harvesting; towards creating water secure communities for now and future.  In 1988, when I was a student of Sociology in the Sambalpur University, I got an opportunity to visit remote rural and tribal villages.  I was astounded to see the rich ecological knowledge and value system that existed in these villages and the communities.  They understood forests, water and food management much better than anyone I had talked or interacted so far.  But they lived in abject poverty, neglected by the state and other development machineries.  The invasion of external cultures and knowledge systems, all in the name of development, had made them so weak that they had lost their confidence in their own skills and traditional know-how.  Thus they had turned from prospering villages, which fought drought successfully just a century ago, to perishing villages which had become dependent on external support.  We tried to revert this and spent several years to make the people regain their confidence on the wonderful traditional knowledge they had; to build and manage water harvesting structures and systems.  After years of persuasion and strategic efforts we achieved success in reviving water harvesting culture in several villages.  People, who had abandoned their crop lands for decades and were migrating out, started returning and converting these human-made deserts into green fields again.  To add to their local and traditional skills and knowledge we provided some inputs that would make locally and ecologically sustainable value additions.  We motivated them to manage the water they harvested through different types and sizes of structures like Bandh, Kata, Muda, Chahala, Chua, Paenghara, etc.  Once the water security was achieved, cropping systems were reworked so that food and nutrition security could be achieved through out the year.  Different villages had different levels of successes depending on the resources they could mobilise and other factors.  However, the culture of water and food security came back to the main agenda of the village communities and they found back the lost dignity of their traditional knowledge and technology. 

Drought is quite recurrent in Odisha, mostly in the western part of it. Is the state traditionally a drought prone area? And will your magic formula of water harvesting solve the problem?
Ranjan Panda: Yes, drought is now the other name of western Odisha.  But this was not the same just about a century ago.  The communities here were better water planners and managers than the modern day engineers.  This area supplied food relief to the Bengal famine victims. Records hold it that this was agriculturally one of the most prosperous regions of the erstwhile central provinces.  However, this sustainable system of water harvesting and management started decaying during the British Raj and more so after we got independence. We bet for large dams, canal irrigation and everything else that involved concrete constructions.  We ignored the people and the systems that had worked for centuries.  Deprived of any support, the once prosperous agrarian communities had no options but to take to what the govt. officials and engineers prescribed them.  Unfortunately, the external engineering based water management systems failed miserably and hence the area got converted to a drought prone region.  The need is therefore to revert to the traditional decentralized systems of water harvesting that does not only talk about structures but systems of ecological integration.  Things can only improve then. The engineers and govt. departments and even civil societies should come up with solutions that can fit into the already existing systems of the people so that they can own the process and be managers of their own water.  This works. We have proved it.  More so, this is no magic formula.  We have just learned from the people and have given it back to them with some modern day inputs.  This has helped them fight drought with success, yet again. 

The state supplies cheap labour to other states. Is it because the agriculture has failed to meet the livelihood need of people? Shall water harvesting help on this front?
Ranjan Panda:  Water harvesting alone is not the solution to all woes agriculture faces now.  While agriculture has been neglected by successive governments, the process has got accelerated ever since the new economic reforms started in the early 90s.  All support in the name of agriculture is benefiting the rich and industrialists; agriculture land is being indiscriminately being diverted for industries; and effective irrigation is shrinking. A cumulative result of this is reflected in the growing marginalization of the farming communities who are now gaining a new identity of ‘wage laborers’, be it in the roads, constructions, industries or even in urban areas.  There is been a systematic conspiracy to weaken all support systems for the farmers and as a result, while the income of almost all other people in the country has grown by manifold (even hundreds and thousands of times), that of the farmers has actually declined drastically.  As a run up to the Bali climate convention we carried out an exercise to build a people’s agenda for climate change.  You would be surprised to note that most of the farmers said that they want the agriculture department to be shut down if the farmers’ plight is any concern of the govt.  They said this in frustration as they feel while the agriculture department officials and ministers have grown richer, the farmers have turned paupers.  This is a serious aspect and needs to be looked in with utmost urgency.  Farmers have to fight against all evils like poverty, climate change and money lenders’ vagaries to grow crops for the nation and then fight on streets to fetch a ‘minimum’ support price.  Even if they can get the minimum support price for some of the main products like paddy, that never comes in handy to buy a dignified life in an economy where everything including education, health care and drinking water have to be bought with cash, which keeps escalating by the day.  They are being impoverished by design and are triply murdered in the way I have described above.  Is it not an irony that the same farmer who grows food for us has to depend on the Rs.2 or Rs.3 kilo rice for quenching his hunger!!  While water harvesting is an urgent need, there is plethora of issues to be addressed if we are serious about development of this agrarian state. 

Recent days have witnessed the conflict of water distribution between industries and agriculture. How real is such a conflict? Does the government have any proper plan to meet the water requirement of several industries coming in the state (State has signed 79 MoUs steel, alumina and power companies etc) without bringing pressure on agriculture?

Ranjan Panda: In my opinion the debate over water distribution has gone beyond just industries versus agriculture.  Water is now being diverted for everything else for industries and urban areas and be sure we are heading towards a disaster.  Our state has been proactively marketing itself as a water surplus state to attract investments and in that blind move it has completely ignored both logical and scientific principles of water resources management.  We have already warned that we may in fact turn to a ‘water stressed’ state just in another five to seven years.  Time is now for the state to learn the basics of water; that it is a finite ecological resource and not an abundant gift of nature that can be exploited just to attract private sector investment.  We are dooming our state and ripping the people and ecology of their water future, just for profit of a few private pockets. See, even we cannot provide water to all the industries we have signed agreement with, in about a decade’s time.  Take it as my word.  And if we do, be sure you will witness bloody battles all around the state, I warn. 

Now international aid agencies like World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) are suggesting water sector reforms in the state of Odisha. How far such recommendations going to help the state’s farmers and industries?
Ranjan Panda: This is nothing new. In the neo-liberal economic era, reforms are the mantra of the elitist economists who keep pushing for it without caring about monitoring the results.  And, our greedy political classes, who assume mastership of our fate as soon as they get elected, get easily swayed by the glitzy promises of the so called reforms.  In reality, reforms have widened the gap between the rich and poor further.  Access to water is one of the glaring indicators of this.  The so called reforms agenda that is being propagated in water sector is biased towards favoring the rich.  Putting a price on water is the single fundamental principle of this.  So, while in the name of economic growth, you are free to push water sucking urbanization and industrialization, you propose for reforms in the management of the available water resources.  You eat up the water, pollute it and alienate the people and species that are dependent on it for their survival and basic livelihood.  And as water goes scarce for products of your ‘reforms’ you ask the people to behave and in the name of management you grab the remaining water resources by putting a price on it and giving entry to private entities to manage it. Neither the poor can pay the price nor can they hold private bodies accountable.  So, they lose out on their survival.  More farmers will end their lives in our state if such reforms continue.  

Water is a community property. Do you visualize a situation in any point of time in future where water is managed by the community at large? Is practically possible? Do you have any quick suggestions for it?Ranjan Panda: We have appointed our government exactly for that.  They have not been elected by the people to work at behest of the corporates.  The water resources and other related departments and institutions have been created to serve the people.  The people are the owners of the resources and the institutions; and instruments created in the form of such departments and bodies are to ensure that the ownership remains in the people.  That is the basic sense of democracy and this is what government should be.  We are going the opposite way.  Rather, in the name of community participation, we are creating institutions to alienate the communities from planning and decision making.  The Pani Panchayats are a case in point.  It’s only when you have a good officer or committed politician that you get to find some positive things happening.  Or it’s only when the farmers or people can show up their courage and power enough to exert control over such institutions. What I intend to say is, it’s very much possible if such good officers and politicians and civil society players combine to revert the trend; and make the system serve the people, not become owners of them. 

Finally, have you taken any initiative in persuading the government for accepting your plans of water management in the state policy; and with what results?

Ranjan Panda:
 Yes, if you have kept a track of what we have been doing, you can find that we have been trying to persuade the government to be people’s representatives and not that of corporates’.  We have been constantly urging upon them to take the communities into confidence and give people their due right over the water and other natural resources.  Its only when the people of the state are closely and constantly involved in water resources planning and management that we can ensure a better water future for ourselves.  Corporate, at whose behest most of the water management planning is being done at the moment, are here only for profit and they will go away as soon as our resources are exhausted.  This should be considered while taking decisions and devising management plans.  We have recently objected to the inclusion of corporate representatives in proposed river basin organisations.  According to us, they are at best consumers and hence can never be part of the decision making bodies in the name of stakeholder participation.  The first and foremost stakeholder in water management of the state is its people.  We have proposed inclusion of farmers, fisher folks, women, panchayat representatives in decision making bodies.  The govt. officials and other technical bodies can provide the advisory and technical supports. Time the govt. takes serious note of it and changes its attitude and culture of alienating people from water and its management.

Ranjan K Panda

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

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Kiss the rain when you can, because water and abundance are falling apart...(Ranjan Panda)