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Intellectuals demand white paper on water issue

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 10:40:00
Orissa politics a platform of intellectuals coordinated by leading youth right activist Sachidananda Satpathy has demanded a white paper from the Orissa government on the Hirakud dam water issue. They have sent a letter to the chief minister Naveen Patnaik and other concerns.
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Bhubaneswar, Dec 8 (Odisha.in) Orissa politics a platform of intellectuals coordinated by leading youth right activist Sachidananda Satpathy has demanded a white paper from the Orissa government on the Hirakud dam water issue. They have sent a letter to the chief minister Naveen Patnaik and other concerns.

We are publishing the exact letter here.  Orissa politics is a online platform which often debates on important issues related to the state. Its participants are experts from across the globe.

Subject: Demanding a White Paper on the Status of Water Allocation in the

Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister of Orissa.
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road , P.O.-Bhubaneswar,
Dist.-Khurda, Pin-751001 (Orissa)

CC :( Email and Fax): Hon Governor of Orissa
       Mr. J B Patnaik, Leader of Opposition, Orissa.
       Mr. Suresh Pujari, President, BJP, Orissa.
       Mr. Ashok Das, NCP Orissa.
       Mr. Jatish Chandra Mohanty, President, Samurdha Orissa.
       To All the Journalists Friends from Orissa

Dear Sir,

Greetings. Regarding our ongoing discussion on the issue of water reallocation from Hirakud reservoirs, the platform demands a white paper from the government to clear the existing confusion among the people on the issue of reallocation of water from reservoirs in general and the status of water redistribution as a whole in the state in particular.

Mr Chief Minister, recent farmer's unrest in the western Orissa for demanding to stop water allocation to Industry from Hirakud dam has opened up the Pandora box and brought out the existing confusion in the policy circle in deciding the priority of the distribution of water in the state.

We strongly urge you to show your statesmanship in coming up with a white paper soon so as to bring wider consensus and reduce tension and confrontation in the state.

Why forum is demanding a White Paper?

There are major thirteen questions where government of Orissa is maintaining a secrecy and silence for long time. There are no convincing answers before the citizens of the state so far received in the form of several press statements by chief minister or other department officials.

There is no data and exact figure before government to take a stand on reallocation of water to industrial purpose from the existing dam and reservoirs and this most important issue has been seen very causally. 

 So, the forum feels that there is an urgent need before government to examine all the points mentioned below in announcing a white paper soon so as to prepare a comprehensive water policy for Orissa.

Has the government of Orissa of late included another objective of sharing the water for the upcoming industries apart from intended purposes of flood control, irrigation and power generation?

If yes, then, what is the rational behind taking such decisions when the expected beneficiaries at the fag-end of the command area of the reservoirs are not able to get adequate water for their small farming activities?

 Has the government considered the opportunity costs to farmers of allocating, say 0.5 million acre feet of water to industries (guaranteeing the allocation regardless of storage level? or with a probability contingent storage level?).

We strongly demand a white paper from the government of Orissa regarding the total volume of water impounded in the Hirakud Dam area on the 1st of October every year, including the water that was let out into the canals and
the generators between 1st of June and 30th of September, beginning with the year when the full storage capacity of the dam was created.

This can only tell the maximum quantity of water that could be impounded in the early years when there was little siltation. The minimum amount of water that has to be maintained in the reservoir, which in fact can not be let out, since the canal heads will be above that water level.

 This is likely to go down over the years due to siltation. Is there any survey on the part of government to measure the level of siltation from time to time, if not every year? When it was last made and what is the status? The white paper should also reflect the amount of water let out, every year, between 1st of October and the next 31st of May, for irrigation and for hydel power generation.

This would include not only the stored water on the 1st of October but also the inflow during the ensuing 8 months. This information, along with the above information sought will tell the quantity of water let out every year (a) into the main canals, and (b) into the power channel. Could you please provide these information in the white paper so as to substantiate your
claim about your ability to fully supply the water needed for agriculture in three seasons of the year after clearing the silt.

The state of Orissa has neither an agricultural extension system, nor the state had adopted any irrigation extension system. Hence farmers are totally uneducated regarding the economic value of this scarce water and obviously have a tremendous scope to improve its efficiency in use of precious water.

The forum demands the detailed of programmes taken up in the state for a massive scale, drip / sprinkler irrigation system in the state so that the sugarcane farmers and aerobic rice and/or system of rice intensification methods of rice cultivation can be spread in rice areas wherever appropriate.

Unless we first educate the farmers regarding the e/judicious/economic use of the scarce water, we will not be able to achieve anything. Agricultural demand of water continues to be high because of outdated technologies for application of water for irrigation.

Much saving of water is possible by adopting modern technologies such as sprinkling and drip irrigation. So, the forum will be interested to know from the government through white paper regarding the steps so far taken to modernize the existing sources of water in the past to save water waste.

Has the government of Orissa decided to allow the Sterlite group to extract bauxite from the Gandhamardhan Hill and use water from the Hirakud through underground pipelines, which is the major concern before the farmers in the area?

 It will be helpful for everybody if government of Orissa will come-out with a statement regarding its MOU with sterlite on this issue. The problem is with government signing several MOU with industries without having any instruction and mention of the nature and source of water use for their consumption.

Is it happening because agriculture has been given a backseat in the state and internal pro-industry lobby and approach of the state government has not realised the importance of water, which leads in end up with many confusion among the people of the state.

As watershed management is the major component of the Back ward district initiative and back ward regions grants, nobody knows what is happening in these projects in the state. The forum demands a detailed evaluation of the above projects to have first hand information on the nature of its functioning and be listed in the white paper.

Looking at the discontentment among the people of Orissa for not getting water for their crop even in the canal areas, one can questions the utilisation of backward regions grant funds. We will be very interested to know the implementation and success of the above two programmes in Orissa in the white paper.

As most of the development schemes and programmes could not succeed in the area, there is strong link between government's apathy in investing money for agriculture with the failed welfare programme in these areas.

There is discussion going on everywhere to allot certain percentage of water to agriculture and industry. This seems to be a very stupid argument and has no base regarding, why state will provide certain quantity to one group at the cost of other and even certain percentage.

Is there any attempt as part of government in the past to facilitate a dialogue between the state and civil society and farmers to work out a fair allocation to all the potential users? The forum through the white paper will be interested to know the number of consultation so far government has organised in the state to know the ground situations.

Could you please tell whether government of Orissa has analyzed the current reality of water flow/capacity and had made any attempt in comparing it with the demands for industry and farming?

 It seems that poor ground and home work at bureaucratic level in these technical issues are making everything
more complex. What steps your government has taken to bring reform in these issues so that people's voice and choice have been well respected and protected in the policy.

Mr Chief Minister, before announcing "this much that much" per cent water for several purposes, has your government possessed the detailed of reservoirs capacity data as in most of the cases, out dated data on the siltation and capacity and flow of rivers and reservoirs are found to be used in the government level, which really does not reflect the reality.

Whether government of Orissa has done any extensive survey recently so as to have any detailed information on allocating and reallocating the water from the existing sources.

It is a fact that Hirakud system has a poorly developed canal system; so most farmers in the area use groundwater instead. As it is, 30-60% farmers in canal command areas of Orissa do not get adequate and timely water supply as per the NCAP; the plight of the rest can be easily imagined. 

This is one of the main reasons why growth rate in agriculture is around 1% in Orissa, much lower than that of the rest of the country.  Given the above, diverting water away from farms to industries is going to impact both foods as well as
livelihood security in the state.

Does the government possess any information regarding the distribution and use of water in the command areas
or any evaluation has ever been carried out recently regarding the utilisation of hirakud reservoirs? Have there been any additional efforts by the government and the industry for this purpose of using the water.

Dear Chief Minister, could you please tell the steps your government has taken in harvesting rain water in increasing the capacity of any of the already existing dam, reservoir project?

We need to know from government of Orissa that what are the steps Orissa government is taking to ensure that polluted water after industry use recycled and comes back to the original sources. How many such recycling water factories are being set up and operating in the industrial establishments areas?

The existing state water policy if any should also be widely debated and should consult all the stakeholders before taking certain stand. Is this process already started in the state?

The dredging or increasing the capacity of water is unrealistic alternatives--raising storage capacity, but on which basis your government has issued a statement to dredge the existing dams? It is unrealistic because first of all, it may not add much to available water, if the existing storage capacity is not filled only infrequently. Besides it may require resettling of the population upstream if the additional storage results in permanent flooding of new areas.

If the major purpose of Hirakud dam was to provide adequate irrigation facility in the command area then how come subdivision like Padampur has remained permanently in the grip of continuous drought, agricultural failure
since 1960s and this part has earned the dubious distinction of one of the poorest region of the entire world.

Unfortunately, not a singly political party or pressure group never ever bother to bring this issue before the government though the people's misery in this part is worst than the sub-Saharan African continent. Our demand before government is to bring this subdivision either under KBK or declare a special agricultural package from the government at the earliest.

I strongly urge government to come out with a white paper in another two months so as to clear the road for preparing a practicable water policy in the state and end farmers' unrest and help the upcoming industries to find their way to consume water from their own sources.

Looking forward to receive your reply to our above concern and government's stand in bringing out a white paper on water distribution in the state.

With Regards
Sachi Satapathy
Co-ordinator Orissa Development Group
Winner, Infosys Young Achiever Award-2005

Participants in the First Phase of the Debate in the Forum on Water
Reallocation Issue:

Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission for Farmer Government
of India .

Mr Kuldip Nayar, Noted Journalist and Former Rajya Sabha Member.

Prof. Nilakantha Rath, President, Indian School of Political Economy , Pune.

Prof. M. Govinda Rao, Director, NIPF and Member, Economic Advisory Council
to the Prime Minister of India .

Prof T.N. Srinivasan, Samuel C. Park, Jr. Professor of Economics, Economic
Growth Center , Yale University .

Prof Jayati Ghosh is a distinguished and extraordinarily prolific economist
and professor, JNU, New delhi .

Dr. Parth J. Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi 110016.

Dr. Bhaskar Goswami is with the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology and
Food Security.

Mr. Ramaswamy R. Iyer is the former Secretary of Water Resources for the
Government of India and was the initiator and principal draftsman of India
's first National Water Policy in 1987.

Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsasay award for

Mr. R Rangachari, Formerly Member, Central Water Commission and and
Additional Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Water,
resources, New Delhi .

Dr. Mamata Swain, Reader in Economics, Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for
Development Studies, Bhubaneswar, Orissa- 751013.

Dr Rajesh Tandon, President, Participatory Research in Asia – PRIA.

Dr Subramaniyam Swamy, President, Janata Party.

Mr. Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, Consulting Editor, Economic Times.

Dr. M. G. Chandrakanth, Professor of Agricultural Economics in the
Department of Agricultural Economics at University of Agricultural Sciences
in Bangalore ( Karnataka , India ).

Mr. Prasanta Patnaik, Senior Journalist, Bhubaneswar .

Mr. Mahesh Mahadarshee, Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University , New
Delhi .

Ms Susmita Dasgupta, Economic Research Unit, Joint Plant Committee,New

Prof A. Narayanamoorthy, Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and
Economy, Pune.

Dr Sudhirendar Sharma is a Delhi-based water expert and development analyst.

Mr. Rabi Kanungo, General Secretary, Intellectual Forum, Rourkela , Orissa.

Dr Gagan Bihari Sahoo, Faculty, Centre For Social Studies, Gujrat.

Mr Paritosh Tyagi, Ex-Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board,Government
of India .

Mr. Vishwanath Srikantaiah, Rainwater Club, Bangalore .

Mr. Guru Choudhry, Consultant, BBSR.

Mr Architesh Panda, ISEC, Bangalore .

Chris Perry, Water Watch , Canada .

 Mr. Umashankar Sahu, Executive Secretary, ADHAR, Balangir, Orissa.

Mr Suparno Satapathy, Chairman, Srimati Nandini Satpathy Memorial Trust,

Mr. John Kurien, Former Chief General Manager, TSD, NABARD.

Dr. N. C. Narayanan, Senior Fellow, The South Asia Consortium for
Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies, Hyderabad .

Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni, Executive Director, Advanced Center for Water
Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM),  Pune.

Dr. Subhas C. Mohapatra, President, IAFF, 1413 Boxwood Lane , Apex , NC .

Sandip K. Dasverma. Orissa Society of America , Richland,WA-99354, USA .

Mr. Tushaar Shah, Principal Scientist, International Water Management
Institute, Elecon, Anand 388001 Gujarat , INDIA .

Prof. Srinivas Mudrakartha, Senior Visiting Fellow
Institute of Rural Management, Anand.

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