Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, May 6 :
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), a leading Ngo working on water related issues in the state, has warned that the Odisha government’s decision to give permission to Korean steel giant Posco to draw water from the Hansua river would affect farm produce leading to serious problems for the local farmers.
Terming the decision of the Odisha government’s Water Resources department on Saturday to allow POSCO to draw water from Mahanadi and Hansua rivers as ‘unfortunate,” WIO convenor Ranjan Panda said it would cause serious drinking water problems for the people of Cuttack district and affect the irrigation potential of Hansua.
“There has been stiff and prolonged opposition by farmers and the general public against diversion of Mahanadi and Hansua water for POSCO at the cost of drinking water for Cuttack and irrigation water at Hansua,” he said.
In September 2010, WIO had objected the move by the government saying it was taking whimsical decisions without an appropriate study of water availability in Mahanadi and Hansua, Panda pointed out.
“We had said that any change in the original proposal of POSCO would need a fresh environmental impact assessment and public hearing. Even the Meena Gupta committee that inquired into violations of environmental laws by POSCO took cognizance of all these problems,” he said.
The Meena Gupta Ccommittee had said;
“If water is to be drawn from Hansua Nallah or any other source (other than Jobra Barrage), the Environmental impact has to be assessed and incorporated into the EIA and an opportunity to be heard given to the affected parties ought to have been given to the affected parties. The effect of non-disclosure of this vital information has deprived opportunity for people who are likely to be impacted due to the water drawal.”
WIO has been raising these issues with the government and asking for disclosure of assessment studies, if any, based on which these decision was taken. This is more important considering POSCO had earlier rejected the idea of taking water from local sources terming those to be saline.
In Chapter 5 of the existing EIA, it has been mentioned that; “This make up water requirement will not be met from the nearby surface streams like Mahanga River or Harua River etc within the study area as these streams are saline due to tidal effect. The water source will be Mahanadi River near Cuttack about 85 km away from the plant site.”
“Changing the plan to go for local ‘saline’ sources means changing technology and a fresh study of the impact of such technology on local environment is also called for,” said Panda.
“How can the Odisha government give permission to POSCO to deviate from the original proposal without going for a complete re-assessment of the water availability, impact of the drawal and related construction and other activities?” asked Panda. “This is clear cut violation of environmental laws and the government must roll back this decision”, he maintained.
The WIO convenor pointed out that while permission had been given to POSCO to draw drinking water (from Mahanadi) and for construction (from Hansua), tere is no mention about permission of water for production.
“If this latest permission does not mention about the water for production, then it is another violation. We need a comprehensive assessment of all water that is going to be given to POSCO for all its works and needs. Most importantly, public hearings should be held in Cuttack as well as among farmers and general people dependent on Hansua where the government must present the real figures and impacts. Then only the government can think of diverting water from these rivers to POSCO”, said Panda.
Dubbing the decision of the government “illegal and corrupt”, WIO said; “In taking this decision in such a dubious and non-transparent manner while the election code of conduct is in force, the government has proved that it has got scant regards for both the Constitution and the people,” Panda said.
“We urge the Odisha government to immediately withdraw this decision and go for fresh environmental impacts assessments of these new proposals,” he added