As of now we don’t know what steps the state government has taken in that
regard. What we can see as ground reality is that more and more water
bodies are being encroached by the rich and powerful both in urban and rural
areas. Now, after the High Court judgement, the government must immediately
step into action and free all water bodies of the state from encroachment.
Surface water bodies play a major role in
retaining rain water and recharging the local ecology. They are also a
major livelihood support system for many poor farmers and communities
depending on fishery. WIO therefore urges upon the government to
immediately declare a Plan of Action to free all water bodies of state
from all forms of encroachment.
Freeing water bodies from encroachments
would also lead to some discontent among local people and some people
might have to be displaced. The government must sensitively look into
such issues and where it involves displacement of poor people the
government should talk to them in a cohesive manner and provide
However, where the water bodies are
encroached by the rich and powerful such as estate developments and
private builders they should be heavily fined and directed to restore
the water bodies with their own funds. Odisha is already a water
stressed state and we can no more neglect water bodies, WIO urges.
WIO has been urging upon the state
government to formulate a Policy on Water Bodies. Time the government
starts discussing with people and experts on this and builds a strong
Policy to protect, preserve and rejuvenate all water bodies of the
state. The state must ensure that not a single water body dies of
encroachment, industrialization, pollution and urbanisation, WIO
[Ranjan Panda is
the Convenor of 'Water Initiatives Odisha' (WIO), a coalition of
organisations and individuals working on water and environmental issues.
He is also a senior freelance journalist.]