Thursday, January 24, 2013
WIO Occasional Update - 24th January 2013: State giving away water to industries blindly...
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) has just got hold of the letter of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) to the State Govt. of Odisha’s Department of Steel & Mines, in which it clearly mentions how the government has been blindly signing MoUs with steel and mining companies and committing to give away precious natural resources of the state without following due diligence and without making any proper assessment of the availability of natural resources to be used by these industries.
MoUs signed, resources not taken into account - In the report dated 11th December 2012 with respect to ‘Performance Audit of ‘Commitments made in the MoUs for setting up of industries in the State and acquisition/allotment of land thereof’, the CAG has slammed the government for ‘signing of MoUs making commitments to provide land, water and minerals without any prescribed guideline, feasibility study and inadequate monitoring thereof’.
The CAG letter says that, “We observed that out of total 93 MoUs signed by Government, Steel and Mines Department has signed 49 MoUs with different promoters for setting of steel and mines industries in the State and land was allotted in favour of 34 promoters. But, no policy/guidelines for assessing the need as well as other inputs like land, water, minerals etc… attracting entrepreneurs to the State thro-ugh open competitive bidding etc, signing of MOUs with promoter companies for setting up industries in the State was formulated. Pre-requisites for signing of MOUs was also not prescribed. Besides, monitoring mechanism on implementation of various commitments by both State Government and Private promoter made in these MoUs was also not prescribed”.
Constitution’s Doctrine of Equality violated - The CAG has raised serious issues with regard to competitive bidding and has pointed out that “ Article 14 of the Constitution of India on ‘Doctrine of Equality’ was violated by entering MoUs based on suo-moto offers instead of on competitive bidding process.” These are serious allegations and exposes the blind push for industrialization by profiting private companies at any cost.
Water, a source of livelihood for farmers; not merely a raw material for industrial production - WIO would especially like to draw the notice of the State Government on the remarks of the CAG when they say, “Land, water, minerals being finite and scarce resources its need based allotment to different promoters of industries is required to be made keeping in mind requirements for future”. The CAG have rightly pointed out that, “these natural resources are not factors of production for industrial growth but also for agricultural production on which the food security of the country rests, and these also had impact on sustainability of the environment and sustenance of livelihood of the citizens”. The CAG letter points out that, “It was noticed from the minutes of 12 HLCA meeting held on 27 January 2010 that, as against availability of 1805.81 MT of total Bauxite in the State, the Department in different MoUs had already committed for supplying 74.61 MT of bauxite per annum for which the entire bauxite reserve of the state would be exhausted in next 24 years.” This is another serious allegation and shows how the state government is actually planning to exhaust the common property resources of the state for quick profit of the private companies at the cost of the people and the ecology, WIO alleges.
State urged to stop diverting irrigation water to industries with immediate effect; and scrap excessive and illegal MoUs with industries - The CAG letter further says, “It is also pertinent to mention here that as per executive instruction no. 5 of LA Manual it is the duty of the Collector to select the land for the requisitioning department. Further, as per clause 9.11 of JPR 2007, ‘all efforts shall be made to avoid double cropped agricultural land and minimize R&R requirement. It was further noticed that in respect of 49 MoUs signed by the Department, commitment for providing 59333.601 acres of land was made without any exercise to scrutinise the land category(whether Agricultural. Irrigated, double cropped etc.) and even without consulting the RDM Department. Water Resources Department, Agriculture Department and concerned Collectors. This is indicative of the fact that the department has signed MoUs with promoters of industries and made commitments without assessing the actual availability of land, water, minerals.” This explains how the Govt. of Odisha neglects the interests of farmers and irrigation. WIO has been repeatedly asking the government to stop allocating water meant for irrigation to industries’. Now that the CAG has slammed the government on these aspects, we hope the government will wake up to the allegations and take immediate corrective measures.
Come clean, state the state of affairs - WIO has been asking the government to make public a status report of available water resources in the state considering present and future uses and factors impacting the availability, use and abuse of the resources in times to come. However, the government has not paid heed to such serious and genuine concerns. We have also said how Odisha has in fact already become a water stressed state and the blind industrialization through water guzzling industries and mining activities is driving the state to severe water scarcity. Now that the CAG has slammed the government on these lines, we urge upon the state to take our warnings seriously and consider arresting the blind push for water guzzling industrialisation.
WIO asks state to promote irrigation and consider ecological restoration of water bodies including rivers - We demand that the state government goes for an immediate assessment of water resources and other natural resources of the state; do an cumulative ecological impact assessment of all the existing industries and then only go for new industries if at all these are needed. We also once again urge upon the government to stop diverting water from irrigation and other sectors to industries; promote irrigation and consider ecological restoration of water bodies including rivers, ponds, tanks and other water systems of the state, said Panda.
For further information, please contact:
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
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.