Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mahanadi Peace Initiative's Suggestion Note to Odisha Chief Minister for 17th Chief Ministerial Meeting: Ranjan Panda

Mahanadi Peace Initiative: Update on 14th September 2016

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

In response to Odisha Chief Minister’s call for ideas that he could take up on the Chief Ministerial level meeting proposed on 17th of September, we at ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’ have emailed him a note with 28 points.  The following update has all the details.

Thanks Mr. Chief Minister for asking our Comments on the Mahanadi Dispute!

Ensure a Free Flowing Healthy Mahanadi to all the Basin Citizens (human and other species)demands ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’

·         We are thankful to you and the Chhattisgarh CM for having acceded to Mahanadi Peace Initiative’s appeal for a joint meeting.
·         Both the Chief Ministers have a greater role to play in order to resolve the Mahanadi dispute peacefully. We can’t wait for a Cauvery to happen to Mahanadi.
·         ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’, based on its discussions with about 2000 people across the state, submits its suggestions and urges upon both the CMs to treat Mahanadi as a Natural Ecological Resource and not as a Tradable Commodity!

Sambalpur, 14th September 2016 –  The ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’ that was initiated by Mahanadi RiverWaterkeeper, Odisha and Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh welcomes the Odisha Chief Minister’s invitation of comments/ideas from people of the state for the forthcoming Chief Ministerial level meeting scheduled for 17th of September

In fact, the very first demand of our Campaign the day it was started was to urge upon both the Chief Ministers to enter into a dialogue without encouraging political fights.  We are thankful that both the CMs have acceded to our request. The CMs must utilise this opportunity to start a co-ordinated drive to save the already water stressed Mother River of both the states.

From the day we started the ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’ on 21st July, we have held meetings and consultations at various places of the Basin and have consulted more than 2000 people already.  Based on these consultations and our 25 Year long experience of working on River and Water conservation, we submit the following suggestions to the Odisha Chief Minister for his dialogue with the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister on the 17th September.

Our Three Priority Suggestions:
1. Don’t treat Mahanadi as a Tradable Commodity;
2. Work on a Road Map to Restore, Recharge and Rejuvenate the River Basin through integrated ecological interventions; and
3. Finalize a Road Map to End Coal Mining and Coal Fired Power Plants in the Basin.

Both the CMs should -

1.      Admit that the Mahanadi River is no more a ‘Surplus’ river but a ‘Deficit’ one.
2.      Agree to make a team of multi-disciplinary experts to study the current condition of the River Basin, not just the water flow; and publish a Status Paper on cumulative ecological impacts of all the industrial, mining, power plants and other projects based on real current data.  Add to the analysis, future projections of water demand by various sectors under ‘stress scenarios’ to be created by normal increase in demands as well as due to climate change impacts.
3.      Make a ‘Water Use Priority List’ for basin immediately and allocate first priority to ecological flow (at least 50% of the total river flow); drinking water, sanitation and other requirement of all Basin Citizens including the wild life and domestic animals; irrigation coverage to all farmers of the river basin; and then all other requirements.
4.      Stop all ongoing projects including dams, barrages, power plants and mining in the basin untill the aboveStatus Report is prepared and real water availability/stress of the basin is assessed.
5.      Initiate the process of formulating a joint Task Force to prepare a Basin Restoration, Recharging and Rejuvenation Plan. Such a ‘Joint River Basin Management Plan’ should respect the right of the River to stay alive and flow freely.
6.      Include a comprehensive plan for restoration of Natural Forests in the basin adhering to the spirit of the Forests Rights Act (FRA) and Panchayati Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA).
7.      Take up extensive catchment protection progarmmes such as watershed management and other such initiatives for soil conservation, run-off water management and ground water recharging.
8.      Consider the River as an Ecological Identity and discuss management of the River in its varied characteristics including geomorphology, ecology, socio-cultural dimensions and traditional relationships of communities with the Rivers. 
9.      Don’t just limit the discussion to distribution of water between states but on all the above aspects with focus on ‘Right of the River to Live and Flow Freely’ and ‘Right of the Basin Citizens(humans and other species) to Equitable and Sustainable Water of the River.”
10.  Decide that no more large dams will be build on the Mahanadi, because large dams obstruct the maximum flow and gradually kill the river and its ecosystem. Large Dams and huge obstruction of water & sedimentation of the River cause ‘colonisation’ of water at the hands of a few by marginalising a large section of the society; increase the chance of disasters such as floods and cyclones. 
11.  Devise a mechanism to end all efforts to privatise the River and its stretches. Both states should immediately end any ‘Absolute Right’ that may have been given to industries/corporates to use specific stretches of the River. 
12.  Ensure ZERO theft of water (from the river flow, surfaces water sources of the basin and ground water) by industrial houses.
13.  Work jointly to tackle the drought situation in the River Basin and provide assured irrigation to all the farmers.
14.  Arrest desertification of the Mahanadi River Basin.
15.  Work towards promoting food and nutrition security in the River Basin with promotion of organic and agro-ecological models of farming and other support given to the farmers. 
16.  Small and marginal farmers of the basin are in accute distress owing to continuous droughts and climate change impacts. Prepare a Joint Climate Change Action Plan for Mahanadi to protect these farmers and other dependent communities on the Rivers and ensure their economic as well as general well being.
17.  Ensure protection, restoration and conservation of all surface water bodies of the basin.
18.  Evaluate violation of Riparian Rights and Environmental Laws by all the industrial and mining projects operational in the river basin; and stop all such violations by enforcing the existing laws and imposing stringent punishments on the violators. Most of such projects have openly been violating laws to pollute our Mother River.
19.  Ensure rights of the fisherfolks, boatmen/women, forest dwellers and indigenous communities on the water of the River Basin.
20.  Initiate a strong mechanism to stop pollution of the River from industrial houses, urban centres and all other sources.
21.  Prepare a Green and Sustainable Urbanisation Plan for the River Basin that reduces the water stress faced by Mahanadi due to blind, unplanned and unsustainable urbanisation.
22.  Enforce strict regulations of use and discharge of Fly Ash by Coal Fired Power Plants. Mahanadi is heavily polluted by carcinogenic fly ash and other wastes generated by these plants. 
23.  Restructure Pollution Control Boards and make them more dynamic and effective.  The Pollution Control Boards have miserably failed in abating pollution of the basin and punishing the culprits.
24.  Establish a stronger role of Gram Sabha in assessing and abating pollution in the River Basin as well as in management of the water in the basin.
25.  Chalk out a plan to phase out coal fired power plants from the Mahanadi river basin. Coal fired power plants have infact been the most water sucker industries in the basin and most of the current water shortage can be attributed to such plants. 
26.  Plan an Alternative Energy Policy for the River Basin that would not only reduce the water stress from the River but also ensure sustainability of energy production and reduce pollution of the basin.
27.  Formulate a special plan to protect all the unique ecological hotspots, sites, shrines and groves such as Debrigarh wild life sanctuary, Huma sacred grove, Satkosia gorge, Chilika and all other such ecosystems.
28.  Study and take learning from successful international water sharing agreements; and accordingly initiate a principle of inter-state water coordination mechanism on all inter-state rivers to avoid future conflicts.

“The ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’ recognises that Mahanadi Civilization is more important than state geographical boundaries and both the states’ well being and prosperity is dependent on a ‘Living and Healthy Mahanadi.’  It is thefore important for the Chief Ministers of both the states to plan development of the basin in a coherant and coordinated approach which is only possible through a peaceful dialogue process.

“The ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’ has already organised several village and city level meetings in both Odisha and Chhattisgarh and has got endorsement of about 2000 individuals and organisations from both the states and outside including some international organisations.  Suppot for the ‘Mahanadi Peace Initiative’ has come from eminent social activists, environmentalists, farmer leaders, experts, academicians and youth leaders from both the states and outside.” 

This is a unique neutral and non-political initiative and we seek cooperation of all citizens of the Mahanadi Basin and all people across the world who want to see Mahanadi a ‘Living and Healthy’ River. 

For further details please contact:

Thanking you,

For the Mahanadi Peace Initiative:

Ranjan Panda, Mahanadi River Waterkeeper, Odisha (Mob: +91-9437050103)

For further information over email, please contact:

Ranjan Panda, popularly known as the ‘Water Man of Odisha’ has been championing the cause of water conservation and management for more than 25 Years now. He has been designated in 2013 as ‘Mahanadi River Waterkeeper’ by New York based global Waterkeeper Alliance for his constant endeavours towards conservation of river Mahanadi. He also convenes the Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), the leading network of organisations and individuals working for more than two decades in the state of Odisha on water, environment and climate change.

Mahanadi River Waterkeeper organisation works to conserve Mahanadi River’s ecosystem so that all communities and other species dependent on it have access to clean water for today and forever in a sustainable manner. It is based at the Water Initiatives Odisha.Mahanadi River Waterkeeper is member of the global Waterkeeper Alliance based out of New York!

Mahanadi River Basin Peace Building Initiative” has been started on 21st July 2016 between ‘Mahanadi River Waterkeeper’  and ‘Nadi Ghati Morcha (Raipur)’ to initiate a citizen driven initiative to resolve Inter-State Water Conflict over Mahanadi.

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