Getting habituated to a habit...
There is a competition to live a life that takes you farther from your roots. Our roots are inevitably ecological. Having gained the wonderful experience of knowing ecology from close corners over the last two decades, I behave like an objective chronicler of it. This blog is meant to be a contemporary chronology of ecology, economics and we the being. The blog will have text and visuals. Ranjan Panda
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
WIO's Mahanadi River Basin Update - 28th April 2015!
Mahanadi River Basin Update – 28th April
(An occasional update from ‘Mahanadi
River Basin Initiative’ of Water Initiatives Odisha and Mahanadi River
Theme: Hirakud Dam
proposed spillways: flood water to factories or flood control in the reality?
are apprehending submergence of agricultural land and displacement. The government
needs to discuss the details with the people first.
dam woes continue to increase as flood control operations have failed. Time flood management is done at the entire
basin level rather than just the main river flow.
World Bank loan for such projects when thousands of crores of water tax and
penalties are pending with industries who are drawing water from Hirakud?
We have been hearing from media reports that the
government is planning to dig extra spillways to check floods from the Hirakud
Dam. It seems some high level committee
comprising of members from the World Bank, the Central Water Commission and the
Dam Safety Department has been making surveys; and soon a proposal will be
finalized how to construct the spill ways.
At present there are 98 gates through which flood
water is released from Hirakud, supposedly Asia’s largest earthen dam and the
biggest structure intercepting Mahanadi waters at the border of Odisha and
Chhatisgarh. Of these, 64 are sluice gates and 34 are crest gates. Around 12
lakh cusec water is released from the 98 gates at a time.
This proposal, as can be read from media reports,
is to increase the flood water discharge capacity of the dam to one and half
times. Currently, as the authorities
inform, the dam’s discharge capacity is 12 lakh cusec of flood water. This is intended to increase to 18 lakh cusec
once the spillways are constructed under a programme called Dam Rehabilitation and
Improvement Project being implemented with World Bank loan.
However, we have our doubts about this process
because of the secrecy that is being maintained on the survey and the proposal. Based on media reports, farmers and other
common people have already started apprehending submergence of agricultural
land and displacement by the project. We are therefore urging upon the government to
immediately make the process transparent so that apprehensions of submergence
of agricultural lands and displacement of people - if any - comes to be
discussed in the open. Hirakud dam,
which was constructed in the 50s, is yet to resettle thousands of people it
displaced. There are horrifying stories
of devastation the Dam has exposed the locals to. Any further displacement and submergence will
definitely invite a lot of ire from the locals.
The government must therefore be transparent in this process.
In fact, the proposal of spillways also brings to
discussion two aspects in which the government always kept giving false
impressions. First, despite repeated
failure of the dam in managing floods, it kept boasting of success. Second that the dam is safe. Even the Odisha government had said to the
honourable High Court that there has not been any lacuna in flood
management. Now, when they are proposing
extra spillways construction to manage floods because the dam has failed
exposes the government’s lie in these regards.
The dam has utterly failed in controlling flood in
the river Mahanadi and the very design of the dam is responsible for that. In fact, a dam that was originally built to
check floods in coastal Odisha is now causing floods in western Odisha as
well. Sambalpur floods, controlling
which is being proposed as one of the main objectives of this spillways
construction, is actually a creation of the Hirakud Dam. We are now experiencing regular floods in
Sambalpur for mismanagement of the dam.
Ever since industries were allocated, in a
non-transparent manner, water from the reservoir the flood management capacity
of the dam has been further failed by the authorities. Now, we are not sure
what kind of a proposal they are going to come up with. However, looking at the
ground realities and the ways things have gone so far with management of the
Hirakud dam, we apprehend these spillways are just an attempt to divert some
amount of flood waters so as to fill water needs of the industrial houses that
have not been harvesting rainwater despite of government instructions.
It is high time the government made the process
open to the public of the area especially because 80 per cent of the cost of
this construction would be met with credits/loans from the World Bank. We the
people of the state have to repay these loans and hence we should have a say in
the planning itself. We would also like
to ask the government as to why it is going for loans from World Bank for water
projects while it has failed to recover thousands of crores worth water tax and
penalties from industries?. Better
recover the amounts due with the industries and plan flood management and other
water projects with that.
Large dams are now outdated concepts and invite
several woes and disasters. The
government should therefore refrain from investing further in Hirakud dam,
which is already ageing and whose storage capacity is reduced by more than one
third. In fact, the government should
now invest in checking flood waters at feeder basin levels and not at the main
river. Management of flood waters in an
ecological approach at the entire basin is need of the hour. It is also vital to free water bodies, river
beds and flood plains from all sorts of encroachment. Forest conservation and restriction of mining
zones in the catchment areas are further needed if we are serious about flood
For the safety of the dam and safety of the people
downstream the government should now look at decommissioning it in a way that
protects the irrigation and power supply.
Any investment made in redesigning the dam for this should be more
beneficial, we are sure.
For further information please contact:
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)
join with us in saving Mahanadi, India's 6th largest River...
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 and half decades now.