Friday, August 29, 2014

My Article on Nuakhai published in Odisha Sun Times!


By Ranjan Panda*
Nuakhai, literally meaning ‘eating newly harvested rice’, is the most widely celebrated festival in western Odisha. This festival of a quintessentially agrarian society reflects the rich cultural heritage of respecting ecology as the mother who blesses us with food.
Nuakhai 3The festivities celebrate respect for family elders, village deities and most importantly for Mother Nature, besides unity and friendship in the society.  Believed to have been adopted from the tribal communities of western Odisha, Nuakhai is now recognized as the festival for one and all in this region.
The belief underlying the celebration of Nuakhai is that you have to worship the harvest if you want Mother Earth to bless with you bountiful crops for all times to come.  That is the reason the newly harvested paddy is OFFERED to the mother deity first.  While village deities are offered the new rice all across the region, the ritual has taken the shape of huge ceremonies in pithas of deities like Samaleswari, Pataneswari, Sureswari and Manikeswari.
The new harvest is not considered sacred until it is offered to the deities.  A farmer, it is believed, gets God’s permission to use the harvest for both consumption and trade only after OFFERING the first morsel to Mother Nature.
The Farmer deserves a salute from all of us  (Pic- Ranjan Panda)
The Farmer deserves a salute from all of us
(Pic- Ranjan Panda)
Nuakhai brings the family members back to their ancestral/parental home.  After OFFERING the cookednua prasad made from the new rice, the family head distributes the same to each family member.  He then blesses them all and visits the deity’s temple, meeting friends and fellow villagers and all others present on that day.  It is popularly known as ‘nuakhai bhetghat’.
Tribal communities celebrate the festival with their folk dances.  Nuakhai is an occasion when you normally see everybody wearing new clothes and each family cooking numerous traditional recipes such as pithamanda and other delicacies.
For about three decades now, Nuakhai is being used as a festival for forging unity among all in the western region of Odisha.  Before 1991, people of different areas of the region used to celebrate Nuakhai on different tithis(dates) in the Bhadrava month.  However, after constant efforts by Hindu priest groups, Bhadrava Shukla Paksa Panchami Tithi was fixed for the Nuakhai festival.  Since then, the festival’s rituals are performed on that day. In recognition of the universal nature of the festival, the Government of Odisha has also declared it a state-wide holiday.
Nuakhai 2For the people though, the celebration continues for two, three days.  In rural areas, it stretches even longer.  Millions of people, who migrate each year to distant places for work, try their best to return to the village to celebrate Nuakhai with their family and friends.  Political and cultural groups also celebrate Nuakhai with great gusto.
Essentially an agrarian festival with its origins in ecological principles, Nuakhai has already taken the shape of a mass festival.  However, agriculture in the belt is suffering from many woes.  Drought is becoming more frequent in western Odisha.  More and more farmers are shunning farming and shifting to other occupations.  Government apathy and climate change are making the life of farmers miserable.
While there is no special effort to support farmers against frequent vagaries of nature and man-made calamities, the government is doing everything it can to marginalize them.  The government’s blind promotion of extractive industries at the cost of farmers is a matter of big worry.
If the current approach to development continues, Nuakhai would soon become history or remain as just a ritual bereft of its socio economic context.  For Nuakhai to stay and spread happiness, joy and unity, farmers have to survive and prosper.
Ranjan-PandaThe author is a Sambalpur based water rights activist and Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)


Thoughts on Nuakhai - 30th August 2014!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 27th August 2014!

You also have a history of your sub-conscious mind.  That is the reason, many of your own actions may surprise you...

Good Morning!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Large dams are more disasters than benefit: now a believer in large dams says it!

See what world's leading authority on the impact of dams on poor people, who worked most of his career supporting large dams, has to say now. THAYER SCUDDER, the world’s leading authority on the impact of dams on poor people, has changed his mind about dams.

Mr. Thayer Scudder held out hope through most of his 58-year career that the poverty relief delivered by a properly constructed and managed dam would outweigh the social and environmental damage it caused. Now, at age 84, he has concluded that large dams not only aren’t worth their cost, but that many currently under construction “will have disastrous environmental and socio-economic consequences,” as he wrote in a recent email.


An aerial view of the Kariba Dam between Zambia and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, circa 1965.CreditPaul Popper/Popperfoto — Getty Images
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THAYER SCUDDER, the world’s leading authority on the impact of dams on poor people, has changed his mind about dams.
A frequent consultant on large dam projects, Mr. Scudder held out hope through most of his 58-year career that the poverty relief delivered by a properly constructed and managed dam would outweigh the social and environmental damage it caused. Now, at age 84, he has concluded that large dams not only aren’t worth their cost, but that many currently under construction “will have disastrous environmental and socio-economic consequences,” as he wrote in a recent email.
Mr. Scudder, an emeritus anthropology professor at the California Institute of Technology, describes his disillusionment with dams as gradual. He was a dam proponent when he began his first research project in 1956, documenting the impact of forced resettlement on 57,000 Tonga people in the Gwembe Valley of present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe. Construction of the Kariba Dam, which relied on what was then the largest loan in the World Bank’s history, required the Tonga to move from their ancestral homes along the Zambezi River to infertile land downstream. Mr. Scudder has been tracking their disintegration ever since.
Once cohesive and self-sufficient, the Tonga are troubled by intermittent hunger, rampant alcoholism and astronomical unemployment. Desperate for income, some have resorted to illegal drug cultivation and smuggling, elephant poaching, pimping and prostitution. Villagers still lack electricity.
Mr. Scudder’s most recent stint as a consultant, on the Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos, delivered his final disappointment. He and two fellow advisers supported the project because it required the dam’s funders to carry out programs that would leave people displaced by the dam in better shape than before the project started. But the dam was finished in 2010, and the programs’ goals remain unmet. Meanwhile, the dam’s three owners are considering turning over all responsibilities to the Laotian government — “too soon,” Mr. Scudder said in an interview. “The government wants to build 60 dams over the next 20 or 30 years, and at the moment it doesn’t have the capacity to deal with environmental and social impacts for any single one of them.
“Nam Theun 2 confirmed my longstanding suspicion that the task of building a large dam is just too complex and too damaging to priceless natural resources,” he said. He now thinks his most significant accomplishment was not improving a dam, but stopping one: He led a 1992 study that helped prevent construction of a dam that would have harmed Botswana’s Okavango Delta, one of the world’s last great wetlands.
Part of what moved Mr. Scudder to go public with his revised assessment was the corroboration he found in a stunning Oxford University studypublished in March in Energy Policy. The study, by Atif Ansar, Bent Flyvbjerg, Alexander Budzier and Daniel Lunn, draws upon cost statistics for 245 large dams built between 1934 and 2007. Without even taking into account social and environmental impacts, which are almost invariably negative and frequently vast, the study finds that “the actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”
The study’s authors — three management scholars and a statistician — say planners are systematically biased toward excessive optimism, which dam promoters exploit with deception or blatant corruption. The study finds that actual dam expenses on average were nearly double pre-building estimates, and several times greater than overruns of other kinds of infrastructure construction, including roads, railroads, bridges and tunnels. On average, dam construction took 8.6 years, 44 percent longer than predicted — so much time, the authors say, that large dams are “ineffective in resolving urgent energy crises.”
DAMS typically consume large chunks of developing countries’ financial resources, as dam planners underestimate the impact of inflation and currency depreciation. Many of the funds that support large dams arrive as loans to the host countries, and must eventually be paid off in hard currency. But most dam revenue comes from electricity sales in local currencies. When local currencies fall against the dollar, as often happens, the burden of those loans grows.
One reason this dynamic has been overlooked is that earlier studies evaluated dams’ economic performance by considering whether international lenders like the World Bank recovered their loans — and in most cases, they did. But the economic impact on host countries was often debilitating. Dam projects are so huge that beginning in the 1980s, dam overruns became major components of debt crises in Turkey, Brazil, Mexico and the former Yugoslavia. “For many countries, the national economy is so fragile that the debt from just one mega-dam can completely negatively affect the national economy,” Mr. Flyvbjerg, the study’s lead investigator, told me.
To underline its point, the study singles out the massive Diamer-Bhasha Dam, now under construction in Pakistan across the Indus River. It is projected to cost $12.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) and finish construction by 2021. But the study suggests that it won’t be completed until 2027, by which time it could cost $35 billion (again, in 2008 dollars) — a quarter of Pakistan’s gross domestic product that year.
Using the study’s criteria, most of the world’s planned mega-dams would be deemed cost-ineffective. That’s unquestionably true of the gargantuan Inga complex of eight dams intended to span the Congo River — its first two projects have produced huge cost overruns — and Brazil’s purported $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will replace a swath of Amazonian rain forest with the world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam.
Instead of building enormous, one-of-a-kind edifices like large dams, the study’s authors recommend “agile energy alternatives” like wind, solar and mini-hydropower facilities. “We’re stuck in a 1950s mode where everything was done in a very bespoke, manual way,” Mr. Ansar said over the phone. “We need things that are more easily standardized, things that fit inside a container and can be easily transported.”
All this runs directly contrary to the current international dam-building boom. Chinese, Brazilian and Indian construction companies are building hundreds of dams around the world, and the World Bank announced a year ago that it was reviving a moribund strategy to fund mega-dams. The biggest ones look so seductive, so dazzling, that it has taken us generations to notice: They’re brute-force, Industrial Age artifacts that rarely deliver what they promise.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why it is not possible to build an IIT or IIM in the Other Odisha?

From a citizen of Other Odisha (rest of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Corridor) to Governments of Odisha and India:

Dear Governments, 

For the last six and half decades, you displaced our people, cut our trees, exploited our mineral resources, and oppressed our people whenever they resisted to such moves.  All this you did in the name of 'development'.  For the last couple of decades, you have accelerated your pace of such development and have widened roads to cut more trees, located power plants and other industries in our areas by killing more water bodies, by displacing more people and by reinventing your forms of oppression against the agitating masses.  All these decades, we have been hearing that 'bhittibhumi' (i.e. infrastructure) is being created in the state.  

After all these years of bhittibhumi bikash, can you answer us why it has not been possible to locate an IIT or IIM in the western or southern Odisha, in want of appropriate infrastructure?  Where are you building the infrastructure then and at whose cost?

When will you stop exploiting the Other Odisha to build your Odisha (Bhubaneswar-Cuttack corridor)?

We need an answer!

Ranjan Panda

Friday, August 15, 2014

Plz watch OTV tonite at 8 pm for discussion on flood management issues.

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Please watch OTV (an Odia news channel) from 8 pm to 9 pm tonite (Saturday, 16th August) for a discussion on Odisha's flood management issues in their special feature programme  "Janamancha."  I am participating in the same.

Repeat telecast: 12 noon to 1 pm, Sunday 17th August

Look forward to your comments and feedback.



P.S.  Sorry, this post is useful only for friends who can understand Odia.

Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha, INDIA
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Waterkeeper Alliance, New York)

Mobile: +919437050103

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader

Water talks to me, I speak for Water...

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a 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 11, 2014

Fake jackets: powerful have the right, poor are 420!

India2Sides: If a poor fellow buys a fake degree to earn a better livelihood, it is illegal; if a powerful politician  boasts of fake degrees, that's celebrity affair!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

5% own near to half wealth, less than 3% pay income tax: That's India!

India2Sides: Under 3% pay income tax; 5% of households own near to 40 per cent of country's assets...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Grand Clearance SALE of Wild Life and Environment is On: Party time for Industrial and Corporate Houses!!

Hi Friends,

After clipping wings of the National Wildlife Board and officially making it illegal, the Govt. of India has put the greatest CLEARANCE SALE for Wild Life and Environment ever since it took charge at the centre.  

Pasting below an article by Nithin Sethi & Somesh Jha in the Business Standard that shows how this illegal committee will decide the fate of 80 national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves just in two days in a meeting which is definitely going to be biased towards the 140 environmentally destructive projects.

The Modi Government, which came to power promising Good Governance has set example of another non-transparent and autocratic functioning by not even making the agenda of the meeting public.  

So, it is party time for Industrial and Corporate Houses and all those who are interested in destroying India's rich biodiversity, wildlife and environment all in the name of development.  

Party time 'Development' folks! Celebrate, your good days have come!!  

Thankfully the tigers, elephants, bears, snakes, monkeys, trees, rivers, fishes and all these species are not voters in the Indian democracy.  Or else they would have died in shame even before the clearances are given, thinking about the senseless and shameless men they voted for!!!

And, I am sure, this is just the beginning of many such moves to come.  

So, best of luck India and Environment....


140 projects on truncated wildlife panel's clearance agenda
Projects impact 80 national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves
Nitin Sethi & Somesh Jha  |  New Delhi  August 9, 2014

The truncated National Wildlife Board's standing committee will appraise about 140 projects that impact around 80 national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves on Monday and Tuesday. It will also appraise proposals to reduce areas of some wildlife sanctuaries.

The 12-member standing committee meeting will be chaired by the Union environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar, with senior forest officials. The standing committee will have one forest official from a Gujarat government organisation, GEER Foundation, and one retired Gujarat forest official, H S Singh, besides one non-government wildlife expert, R Sukumar, on board, instead of the mandatory eight non-government wildlife and ecology experts.

Business Standard accessed the agenda of the meeting that has not been made public by the ministry. It has been circulated only to members of the standing committee. The environment ministry had earlier made it necessary to disclose the agenda in advance to public to invite comments from others. Besides the members, the standing committee meeting is attended only by senior wildlife officials of states that have sent the proposals.

The proposals include large infrastructure projects such as the 520-Mw Teesta-IV dam in Sikkim, which the previous standing committee members had objected to in unanimity also pointing to other dams that had come up in the state illegally. The long list includes OIL exploration, thermal power projects, highways, power lines, limestone and other mining, irrigation and water supply projects, oil pipelines, limestone mining, border fencing and other defence projects. Some of these projects are to cut through or are in the close proximity of tiger reserves such as Pench in Madhya Pradesh, Periyar in Kerala and Dampa in Mizoram.

Business Standard had reported the controversial appointment of only these three individuals on board the National Board of Wildlife instead of the statutory 15 as provided in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The National Democratic Alliance government has decided to hold the meeting of this toothless board's standing committee to clear a host of old pending and new projects in and around wildlife zones.

After a Supreme Court order, the standing committee is required to appraise all projects that fall within these national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves or within a 10-kilometre radius of such areas. The committee is also mandated to set up rules and regulations that govern such clearances besides other policy matters on the subject.

But the ministry now expects the standing committee to move faster on clearing the projects, which include around 35 pending from before and a fresh set of more than 100 proposals that have been proposed before the ministry by the state governments.

The previous meetings of the standing committee under the United Progressive Alliance regime had listed the need to have proper rules for the functioning of the panel, guidelines for linear projects that require wildlife areas and other larger policy concerns. Though these have been put on agenda, sources said, they are unlikely to be addressed in the August 12-13 meeting with all but one non-government expert-member now absent and a host of clearances listed for clearance over the two days.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mahanadi Flood Update: Relief is a profitable crop!

Relief is a profitable crop for the corrupt politician-bureaucrat nexus. Floods are therefore a necessity for their prosperity. Man made flood of Hirakud dam tells us this story...

Mahanadi Flood Update: Why politicians love big dams?

If you mismanage the dam and create more flood devastation, you can market for another dam. That seems to be the message of our corrupt politician-bureaucrat nexus who see a large dam as an opportunity to earn fortunes for themselves and their coterie. Common people can die and suffer again and again.

The fact remains, large dams cause more floods and huge devastation. Solution lies in decentralised management of rain water, not in these centralised systems of corruption.

Mahanadi Flood Update: I will be live on Naxatra TV at 9 pm tonite!

Today I will be in another live TV discussion from 9 to 10 pm @ Naxatra TV (Odia News Channel), again over phone from Sambalpur. The discussion is related to silt deposit in Hirakud Dam's reservoir and it's role in the man made flood.

Time permitting, please watch. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mahanadi Flood Update: Hirakud dam expands Odisha's flood geography!

Hirakud dam has not only caused more flood devastation than it has abated, but also has made the 'flood free' areas 'flood prone'. Sambalpur is one such example. In nutshell, Odisha's flood geography has been expanded by the instrument which was implanted to shrink it...

Mahanadi Floods: I shall go live on Naxatra TV at 9 pm tonite!

Please watch Naxatra TV (Odia News Channel) at about 9.10/9.15 pm tonite for a discussion on the current flood management practices.  I shall be there over phone from Sambalpur as they are facing some technical difficulties with their local studio. 

Mahanadi Floods: Hirakud dam's inefficient and non-transparent management costs the common people their lives -

Odisha government's water resources department is so efficient in dam management that it cannot even update the current status of Hirakud Reservoir on it's website. The latest that you get is of 12.00 hours today.  Please see the graph pasted below for the exact position.

At the moment, news are coming in that 46 gates of the dam are open. However, news of backwater flooding from Lakhanpur confirm that the Dam is more than full and has become a 'time bomb'. The FRL (Full Reservoir Level) that the dam authorities report in their website is for 630 but Lakhanpur villages that have been flooded are located beyond 632 feet above sea level. The dam's safety comes to a vulnerable position as soon as the water crosses 610 level. You can imagine what situation we are in. A vulnerability that we can't even imagine. And this means, this reporting in website is also wrong.

And the Dam Management Authority are sitting pretty in Bhubaneswar managing things over phone and in a very non transparent manner.

As a friend rightly said, the government authorities are perhaps waiting for a disaster to happen so that they can bag international award for having successfully managed the relief and rescue operations. People can die. In fact, officially, 24 people have already died in floods this time. The actual figure may be much higher. And, the other species don't come into count.

We have been constantly warning the Govt. of Odisha to modernize the management of Hirakud Dam and make it transparent. Nothing changed in their system. I am afraid, we may see a repetition of 2008 and 2011 floods in Mahanadi.

Live Storage Filling of Major Reservoirs as on 06-Aug-2014

Time:1200 hrsTime:1200 hrsTime:0800 hrsTime:0800 hrsTime:0800 hrsTime:0800 hrsTime:0600 hrs
Reservoir Level & position wrt. Full Reservoir Level
RL: 628.17ftRL: 120.22mRL: 1491.4ftRL: 2727.4ftRL: 852.37mRL: 639.08mRL: 81.4m
(-) 1.83ft(-) 3.28m(-) 24.60ft(-) 22.60ft(-) 5.63m(-) 2.92m(-) 0.90m
Reservoir Inflow & Outflow
Live Storage capacity & Live Storage available
Cap:482155 HamCap:341371 HamCap:267600 HamCap:96993 HamCap:93500 HamCap:148550 HamCap:55650 Ham
LS:445402 HamLS:226926 HamLS:150839 HamLS:48832.78 HamLS:45412 HamLS:114362 HamLS:53077 Ham
The RED line corresponds to  Full Reservoir Capacity

(Reservoir Status accessed from dowr website at 17.00 Hours on 6th August 2014)  (