Report by OD bureau; Sambalpur: Water rights body urges Odisha Government to present status paper on Hirakud Water Management and make public all the studies going on for better management of floods in the state.
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) convener Ranjan Panda said to OD that, "We have come across the information that officials of the Water Resources Department of Govt. of Odihsa have held a meeting with their counterparts in the Chhattisgarh government to discuss ‘sharing of information with regard to release of flood water in the Mahanadi. It is said the Chhatisgarh government officials have promised that they would inform in advance of at least 6/7 hours before releasing water from the Rabishankar and Bengo dams upstresma.
This is a welcome step and we appreciate that concerns raised by Water Initiatives Odisha last year on this has been addressed. However, we believe this is just a very small and negligible part of what the government of Odisha should be doing to manage the devastating floods and the resultant disastrous impacts. As such also 6/7 hours prior information is not sufficient. We need much better and accurate data sharing systems in place."
Last year, during the floods, Water Initiatives Odisha urged the Government to take sustained measures to mitigate flood impacts and come out with a Flood Management Policy for the state with proper and legally enforceable agreements with inter-riparian states. He further added that, "There seems no headway on that front. The government can no more be complacent on this. We cannot wait for another flood to wake up the system to work. Go for an agreement with Chhattisgarh on Mahanadi without any further delay, we urge. As such also such meetings are held at the whims and fancies of officials. We have been informed that such a meeting was held in 2009 but there were no meetings in 2010 and 2011. So, we feel this is just an eye wash game being played to cover up the faults. The people of the state cannot accept this anymore."
Last year, Water Initiatives Odisha had also urged upon the government to do a thorough analysis on the obsolete and ineffective Rule Curve of the Hirakud Reservoir. Nothing has moved so far. So, this year too, if the September-October rains come and create massive floods, we will expect the government’s same age old responses. Why blame rain and Chhattisgarh while your own system is obsolete? We had also urged upon the government to release a white paper on the flood operation details that created the man-made floods last year and years before. There is an eerie silence on this. We urge upon the government to immediately release such a white paper on Hirakud Reservoir’s water management without further delay. We strongly believe the Hirakud water mismanagement that is creating man made floods and acute power generation failure is due to undue favour being shown to provide water to industries. We demand this white paper should also cover the details of water taken by each industry during non-monsoon months.
Last year, we urged upon the government to prepare and release a flood plain zone map for the state and free flood plains of all forms of human habitations. While there is no progress marked on that front, we realise more and more buildings and apartments are coming up in flood plain zones in cities of the state, Bhubaneswar being the worst. Why is the flood plain zoning not being made and implemented? Are the land mafia and builder lobby influencing our policies? We strongly believe they are doing. We also strongly believe that the government is shying away from formulating a comprehensive flood management policy due to such pressures from the land mafia and other vested interest groups. This is short-sightedness and cannot be appreciated any more.
Water Initiatives Odisha asked the government to release accurate, up-to-date data on the rivers and reports of the various studies they have been doing with support of World Bank, Govt. of India and other agencies for better understanding of floods to prepare flood management practices. However, there has not been any disclosure from the government on this so far. We once again urge upon the government to come clear on these and let the people of the state know what is happening with all such studies. Water Initiatives Odisha said that we need all these for scientific management of floods where people can participate.