Ranjan K Panda
Friday, October 14, 2011
Build Up to State Level Consultation on Floods
State Level Consultation on Floods - Odisha
As we gear up for the State Level Consultation on Flood Management to be held on 23rd October at Bhubaneswar, we are highly encouraged by the tremendous response received from many organisations and individuals. We thank you all for supporting us in this first ever such civil society intervention aimed towards working on a contributory process to help build an effective flood management platform in the state.
As we have already informed, this is just the beginning and we envisage a lot of collaborative and coordinated action with all of you and other networks, people, researchers, experts, govt. departments and all others concerned. We will ensure that the debate around floods do not hibernate as soon as the floods recede. With all your support, we are sure, we can do this.
Even as we are finalizing the agenda and discussion points for the Consultation, we have initiated a debate across various groups in the nation seeking people to give in their suggestions on the issues we have raised so far. The India Water Portal made a brief analysis of all the matters we raised through our regular Updates. We have circulated that to you. Currently, we have initiated a debate on some issues in the Solution Exchange network hosted by the UN. We are writing below a detailed note on the same and want to run the debate in Odisha, through all the e-groups we are part of, as a consultative preparation for the State Level Consultation.
We request you to please give your thoughts on the same and write back to us with your comments and suggestions. This will make the day long deliberation much more enriching and engaging.
Look forward to hear from you.
Thanks and regards,
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
On behalf of WIO, ODAF, FCFC, OKAA and all other organisations and individuals who are supporting us in this unique initiative.
Your Comments Needed on Ways to Improve Flood Management in Odisha
Odisha, a disaster prone state, has just been ravaged by two spells of devastating floods this September. The floods have virtually caught the state and its floods response system unawares. The state is among the firsts in the country to have set up a Disaster Management Authority but there seemed a big vacuum in all the three stages of response: 1. Flood Forecasting and management (including dam management); 2. Rescue and relief; and 3. Rehabilitation.
The floods have affected more than 5.6 million people in 21 districts (with eight districts overlapping between the two floods) out of the 30 districts of the state. This is about 13.3 per cent of the total population. The officially recorded human casualty is 83 and livestock casualty is in several thousands. More than 8 thousand villages have been affected, 3 thousand out of which were completely submerged during the floods. One third of a million houses were damaged and crop damage has been enormous.
From the day one when the flood deluge occurred, the mismanagement of the Hirakud big dam over river Mahanadi (6th largest river of the country) once again came to the limelight and this time, unlike the 2008 floods – when too the dam’s mismanagement caused lot of damage that could have been avoided - the issue was picked up by both political parties and civil society circles, finally resulting in the Governor of Odisha ordering an inquiry into this. A PIL has also been filed by some groups in the Odisha High Court with this regard. People of the state say this flood surpassed the damages and devastation of the 1982 floods, known to be the deadliest in recent history.
The question is why we are grappling with the same issues that we encountered in 1982? This is especially when we keep saying that we have learnt lessons from the Gujarat earthquake and Odisha Super Cyclone that gave rise to the formation of the National Disaster Management Authority.
Each time a flood occurs, govt., civil society and the media wake up to it and the tempo dies down as soon as the floods recede and/or impacts’ scars are temporarily healed. We at WIO are now trying to change this ‘short lived memory’ system and have decided to stir up the minds and actions of all involved in these issues. We are already organising/participating in several such debates/discussions in the grassroots level; in the media and at other forums.
On 23rd of this month, WIO along with its member and support organisations and individuals, is organising a State Level Consultation to discuss the history of floods in Odisha - including the 2011 floods - in order to find a solution towards its management. WIO believes that we have to live with floods and should now gear up to manage these floods in a more systematic, participatory, decentralised and scientific manner than ever before. We have to initiate the change. We have to demand a proper flood management policy. This debate is to seek your help and suggestion in that regard.
We request all members in the list to share their views on the following questions:
1. What we can do to improve the flood management along rivers? Do you think an integrated river basin management system where the people take the centre stage of participation and governance will help?
2. What kind of a flood plain zone management will be of use in the current day society where urbanisation and encroachment of flood plains is just becoming the other name of development? Do you think we should think about going back to the Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning that was circulated by the CWS to all states way back in 1975?
3. Do you have any examples of a proper flood and flood plain management in your state or country? If yes, please do share. Also, please give your thoughts on what kind of inter-state agreements should exist for river basin management? Should they be legally binding or not?
The information thus provided by you would help us to enrich the debate we are hosting in the state at the moment and will also contribute towards our recommendation for a Flood Management Policy. It will also help the state and its people adapt to floods and other disasters. So, please consider this at utmost urgent and kindly respond.
Ranjan K Panda