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Odisha government apathetic to water issues: WIO

 

Picture source: odishasamaya.com

Bhubaneswar,

Last updated 06 Jul 2016 01:02 IST

  Odisha, Water, Ranjan Panda
In a significant judgement, on October11, 2012, the honourable Odisha High Court asked the state Government to formulate strong laws within two years to protect and preserve water bodies in the state. It was in a case pertaining to the plight of water bodies such as ponds and tanks in Cuttack city that the honourable HC asked the government to formulate this law.
 

Odisha government is still apathetic towards the issues relating to water conservation and restoration of water bodies though the issue has a direct link with environment, livelihood and ecology. Because of such callousness of the state government, despite several rulings by the courts, water bodies in the state are dying, says a release from Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), a leading water rights body in the state.

In a significant judgement, on October11, 2012, the honourable Odisha High Court asked the state Government to formulate strong laws within two years to protect and preserve water bodies in the state.

It was in a case pertaining to the plight of water bodies such as ponds and tanks in Cuttack city that the honourable HC asked the government to formulate this law.

“The deadline is about to be over and we don’t see any sign of such a law being formulated in the state.  This is a serious concern and must be addressed immediately if the state government respects the High Court judgement,” says Ranjan Panda, Convenor of WIO.

Demanding that the state government should immediately comply with the HC order and come out with a stringent law to protect all water bodies of the state without waiting for the two years’ deadline to be over, which otherwise would mean defying the court’s ruling, Panda seeks the government to wake up fast.

 

Quotation starts

Despite both the historical orders, no positive steps have been taken by the state government in this regard, so far. Rather, the ground realities are that more and more water bodies are being encroached by the rich and powerful both in urban and rural areas.

Quotation ends

In another historic judgement, on January 28, 2011, the honourable Supreme Court of India also had directed all the State Governments of the country to prepare schemes to evict illegal/ unauthorized occupants of Gram Sabha/ Gram Panchayat/ Poramboke/ Shamlat land saying that they must be restored to the Gram Sabha/ Gram Panchayat for the common use of villagers. The Apex Court directed the Chief Secretaries of all State Governments/ Union Territories to do the needful in this regard taking the help of other senior officers of the Governments and submit a compliance report by May 3, 2011. “We are not sure whether the Government of Odisha complied with that order or not.  Nothing has been put up in public domain for the common people to know about this,” says Panda.

As said in the release, WIO had then urged upon the Government of Odisha to see to the issues raised in this judgement and take appropriate action to free all water bodies of the state from all sorts of encroachments and ensure their protection and revival from the destructive forces including pollution from industries and urbanization. Panda, on behalf of WIO, sought that the government should comply with both the above judgements and make everything known to the common public by uploading all information in public domain.

Despite both the historical orders, no positive steps have been taken by the state government in this regard, so far. Rather, the ground realities are that more and more water bodies are being encroached by the rich and powerful both in urban and rural areas, alleges WIO citing the case of a vital urban water body in the Sambalpur city which was being filled with the carcinogenic fly ash from nearby coal fired thermal power plants in the name of extending a children’s park. Though the Sambalpur Development Authorities stopped the works after opposition from WIO, the fly ash still remains there and the pond stands shrunk. Similar is the fate of most of the water bodies in the state.  While many have been killed for real estate and other purposes, many others are being used as garbage pits, says the release.

Apart from their livelihood support roles, surface water bodies play a major role in retaining rain water, recharging subsurface soil and rejuvenate the local ecology. They too play major role in flood water management during monsoons. So, the government must immediately declare a Plan of Action to free all water bodies of state from all forms of encroachment and make the information. Panda, in the release from WIO, has sought that the plan must be made by involving all sections of the society and all information be made available on public domains.

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