Sambalpur, September 28 :
Leading international water conservation body, Waterkeeper Alliance has designated well known green activist and “one of India’s leading voices on water” Ranjan Panda, , as Mahanadi River Waterkeeper. This global recognition for this dedicated water warrior from Sambalpur has come on the eve of the World Rivers’ Day.
“Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have Ranjan Panda to be the eyes, ears, and voice for this vital watershed,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Waterkeeper Alliance President in his citation. “The theft of our public waters by polluters,” said Mr. Kennedy, “is not acceptable. Ranjan is the right leader to fight for clean water in the region.”
Waterkeeper Alliance, based out of New York, is a global environmental movement uniting more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on the issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol more than 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.
The Alliance in its citation says, “ Ranjan, the latest Waterkeeper in this global network, will work to protect and preserve the Mahanadi River in India by combining his firsthand knowledge of the waterway with an unwavering commitment to the rights of the community and to the rule of law. “
The Mahanadi River Waterkeeper has been dedicated to the cause of advocating conservation of Mahanadi.
Ranjan, popularly known as the Waterman of Odisha is the convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha, a two decade old active network on water.
“Mahanadi River Waterkeeper’s aim will be to provide strong advocacy that will result in an improved quality of life for all citizens whether they rely on it for drinking water or irrigation, or whether they simply value the rivers’ continued well-being”, Ranjan said after receiving the prestigious recognition.
“A significant part of our mission will be to improve ecological health of Mahanadi”, he added.
Ranjan’s major task would be to profile the river and its pollution and then link communities to the river to revive and restore it through a participatory process.
Along with volunteers and communities of Mahanadi, with whom he is already working, Ranjan would identify threats of pollution from mining, industries and thermal power plants; that from urban sewerage and garbage; threats of climate change including that of sea rise and changing river beds and other related issues. He will also organize communities around this and advocate with government and regulatory authorities to save Mahanadi from its current dying state.
The Mahanadi Waterkeeper will work on watershed-related issues of Mahanadi in Odisha and join forces that are working in the neighboring state of Chhattisgarh on issues impacting the same river. Waterkeeper Alliance and its global network would stand in support with Ranjan and provide him necessary technical assistance as and when needed, sources in Water Initiatives Odisha said.
“Ranjan will have a big job. Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water– from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible governments,” stated Marc Yaggi, Executive Director, Waterkeeper Alliance. “Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters and the will to enforce our laws, we need to stand up with grassroots advocates like Ranjan and fight for our right to clean water”, Yaggi said.