Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, Aug 23:
Describing the talks between officials of the Odisha and Chhattisgarh government on flood control measures in River Mahanadi as a ‘big disappointment’, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), an organisation working on water and flood management issues, has said there was nothing new in it.
“In yesterday’s meeting, it is said, Chhattisgarh officials agreed to provide information on release of flood water from upstream dams like Rabishankar and Bengo at least seven hours in advance to allow Hirakud dam authorities to undertake water management. Exactly the same promise was made by Chhattisgarh officials in the 2012 meeting,” said Ranjan Panda, the convenor of WIO, in a press release today.
It proves that things had not moved an inch since 2012, Panda said adding the fact that Chhattisgarh skipped last year’s meeting confirms this further.
Terming it ‘unfortunate’ that the meeting this year could not be held before the start of monsoon, Panda said; “Had they organized the meeting in June, mismanagement of Hirakud during the August floods could have been avoided to some extent.”
The WIO convenor said a casual, yearly meeting was not enough. “The governments should have legally binding agreements to share responsibility and fix accountability for all the man-made devastation that occurs frequently due to lack of coordinated efforts,” suggested Panda. Pointing out that there were no meetings in 2010 and 2011, he said the government could not be so casual anymore.
Reiterating its demand for a comprehensive flood management plan, WIO urged the state 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? This is sheer short-sightedness and cannot be accepted anymore at a time when common people are getting increasingly devastated by man-made floods,” the press release said.
The eminent water activist demanded the findings of the numerous studies on flood control in Mahanadi done with the support of the World Bank, Government of India and other agencies be made public.
“Many relevant data and reports are not being opened to public domain deliberately. We once again urge upon the government to come clean on these and let the people of the state know what is happening with all such studies. We need all these for scientific management of floods where people can participate,” said Panda.