Wake up call for Odisha to ensure better integrated water management

Bhubaneswar: In the wake of NITI Aayog’s report on composite water management index (CWMI) released in August as per which Odisha did not fare well, experts believe that the State government must act fast to ensure better water management before it’s too late.

Despite the fact 14 major rivers are flowing in the State, thousands of acres of agricultural land are yet to be irrigated causing worry among farmers.

Also, in many urban and rural areas, people fail to get water for drinking and other purposes. Moreover, water woes of residents of several areas in the State capital are very grim.

Instead of getting into a tiff with neigbouring states, it would be better if the Odisha government focus on constructing small barrages and dams on river flowing in the State. This will help store more water and put them to better use such as irrigation instead of allowing it to flow into sea.

Also, to stop rivers from facing slow death, the government should ensure massive plantation drive along the river banks. Though the government had launched a programme to undertake plantation drive along the Mahanadi and other major rivers, it is not understood why the work has not been taken up on war-footing. The drive aims at minimizing soil erosion.

“Water management in Odisha is not satisfactory. An integrated water resource management policy is the need of the hour,” opined PK Jena, scientist and former DG of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

In Bhubaneswar, there were many wetlands a few years back. But slowly the wetlands were buried and construction of houses has been undertaken. Following this, there has been decline in ground water level in the city. The same scenario exists in other cities of the State as well, said Jena adding that industries should be encouraged to develop wetlands in their premises.

Discharge of sewerage water without being treated at treatment plants also raises grave concern. This causes pollution of the ground water and rivers. The government should keep its priority clear in case of water management, Jena further said.

Toeing similar lines, Urban Planner Piyush Rout said the State government is seriously lacking in proper water management plan in urban areas. “Taking cue from global cities such as Singapore, the government must think over formulating an Urban Water Management Policy for its cities and towns. In Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, natural waterways are dying.”

“There are water resources in the city but we are not using them. Sewerage water is being released into water bodies without being treated increasing the pollution level in water bodies. A glaring example of negligence towards our water bodies in cities is the Gangua nullah in Bhubaneswar which is facing slow death due to pollution and encroachment,” said Rout.

Unless the State government pays attention to water management and save rivers and other water bodies at this juncture, it would end up with a fractured economy while being engaged in row with neighbouring states over this precious gift of nature.

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