Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, Mar 22:
More than a hundred fishermen took a pledge to save the Mahanadi at a convention organised by Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) on the banks of Mahanadi at Dhama on the occasion of World Water Day today.
The fishermen, drawn from six villages dependent on the Mahanadi for their livelihood, also pledged their support to WIO’s ‘Save Mahanadi Campaign’, informed Ranjan Panda, Convenor of WIO.
The convention started with felicitation of aged and retired fishermen. “WIO decided to felicitate these fishermen for their peaceful and non-abusive ways of fishing for decades. These seniors, who are in their 80s and 90s at the moment, have all along believed in respecting the river and protecting fish diversity. They have never indulged in violent ways such as poisoning rivers with chemicals and blasting dynamites to increase their fish catch,” said Panda. “They are role models who have not been allured by cash benefit at the cost of the River and its ecology,” he added. Blasting dynamites, poisoning the river water with pesticides and industrial pollution have become the biggest enemies of Mahanadi and its fish biodiversity.
“The fish population and diversity down streams in Hirakud dam has reduced by almost 50 per cent. The fall has been particularly sharp in the last one decade because of industrial and urban pollution upstream,” said Anand Seth, President of the Jhadeswari Kaibarta Samaj (the local association of the fishing communities). “Prawn catch, for example, has reduced by almost 90 per cent in 10 years”, he added he. The same fate has occurred to fish catch. At least five varieties of fishes have already vanished from the River due to this, rue the fisher folks.
“We don’t want any more large dams but a free flowing Mahanadi. We have opposed the Sindhol Dam Project and will continue to do so,” the fishermen said. “Each candidate who comes to our villages to seek votes during the upcoming general elections have to promise us in writing that they would scrap the Sindhol Project forever,” said one of the fishermen.
“We are aware that both the Chhatisgarh and Odisha governments are going for many coal fired power plants. We are already suffering due to large scale pollution by existing plants and demand that no more coal power plant be established on Mahanadi,” he added.
“All parties contesting in the generation election should give us a clear mandate to punish the pollutant industries and stop any further abuse of Mahanadi”, the fisherman said.
“Supporting traditional fishermen is a must if we want to save the Mahanadi and its ecological biodiversity”, said Dr. Dilip Kumar Padhi, a WIO volunteer.
“We are in the process of building a people’s manifesto on water, sanitation and climate change issues. All the concerns raised by the fishermen would be incorporated into that and raised at the appropriate levels”, informed Panda. “The Save Mahanadi Campaign would link all fishermen’s communities of the River for conservation of the river and to support their rights over the River”, informed Panda.
Jagdish Mishra, Saswat Padhi, Shishir Kar, Prashant Sahoo and Gajindra Pandey from WIO helped organise the convention along with villagers of Dhama.