AN APPEAL FROM WATER WARRIOR RANJAN PANDA
Vote for those who care for your Rivers and water bodies!
- Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) appeals to all voters in the urban Odisha to vote for candidates, contesting in the upcoming Urban Local Body (ULB) elections, who have a clear cut mandate to save rivers and water bodies.
- WIO also calls for all candidates to look at the people’s agenda that we have developed through visits to several cities of the state and discussing with the local people there.
- People want Right to Water, Right to Sanitation and Right to Live in Green Environment
Most of the ULBs of the state are going for elections this month. In this context a team of WIO volunteers visited nine cities from all across the state and talked to people about their problems in relation to water, sanitation and related aspects. The team also tried to get an understanding of the people’s expectations from the candidates who are contesting in these elections. Most of the city dwellers felt they are living in unhygienic conditions. Most of our cities are severely polluted due to blind and unplanned waste disposal, felt the citizens.
Especially the slum dwellers, who are living in most unhygienic conditions and with very poor basic amenities, have felt that they don’t have any right to water and sanitation in this state. Most of the slums in urban areas of the state have most of their inhabitants going for open defecation. We are forced to drink untreated water, complained many slum dwellers.
Based on the discussion with slum dwellers and other people, WIO team found out that at least 90 percent of slum dwellers of the urban areas of Odisha defecate in the open; and only about 25 per cent of them piped water supply; much of which is untreated.
Most of the municipalities in the state are dumping the solid waste, medical wastes and all other types of hazardous wastes anywhere they find a space, haphazardly without any proper planning. Almost all garbage is transported in open body transport carriers. None of the urban areas have a proper solid waste management plan – at least known to the people – as a result of which malaria and jaundice have become common in most of the slum areas of the state. In cities like Puri, the ‘supposed to be protected’ sweet water zones have turned out to be garbage pits, open defecation fields and place for dumping all sort of waste materials. In almost all the cities, water bodies, river sides and open fields are being used as dumping yards of municipal bodies as well as private contractors used by them in sanitary operations. Majority of the people we talked believed privatization of sanitation services has miserably failed.
All rivers flowing by the cities of the state are heavily polluted due to urban wastes, human wastes and industrial pollution, revealed the survey. Mahanadi is among the most polluted rivers in Odisha, in so far as urban wastes are concerned.
None of the cities in the state have sewerage treatment facilities. While there have been some initiatives taken in cities like Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack; there is completely no progress in any other city. Even in the above cities the plans are just in their preliminary stage. In Puri, a sewerage treatment plant has been inaugurated by the Chief Minister of the state but things seem to have been done in hurry keeping in mind the ULB elections. No treatment is happening at the moment. Cities of the state need to think immediately about having decentralized garbage and sewage management plans and programmes. The citizens of almost all the cities we travelled have unanimously voiced their concern in this regard.
People in almost all the cities expressed their concerns over the reducing green spaces, increased vehicular pollution, and lack of roads for pedestrians and bi-cycle riders. A large section of the people also thought concrete roads are not good for the cities as they are increasing the heat during summer as well as making it difficult to maintain water supply pipes and other such services.
Many urban dwellers of the surveyed cities said they are aware about the ill effects of plastics but have not found suitable alternatives. They have also expressed their dissatisfaction about the lack of drive by municipal bodies and related institutions in this regard.
Overall, urban people of the state have said that municipal bodies should be strengthened and privatization of their services and functions be stopped. However, they have also questioned the efficiency of many municipal bodies. There is a common complaint by people that the ULBs are not involving the local people in decision making. Rather they are influenced by their political compulsions and private contractors.
WIO appeals all the candidates contesting in the ongoing ULB elections to consider these above concerns and opinion of the urban people of the state as their agenda for action while seeking votes.
WIO also urges upon the urban people of the state to vote for candidates who show commitment towards protecting Rivers, water bodies and work towards making the cities self-sustaining in water resources from within the city areas.
People should also vote for candidates who are committed towards decentralized garbage-sewerage treatment and management; creating ample green spaces including forests, parks and play grounds in the cities; and above all who are committed to provide drinking water, sanitation and greenery as a right to the urban people.
For more information, please contact:
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)