Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Odisha: Activists welcome HC judgement asking State to make law for protection of water bodies


Tuesday October 16, 2012
Ranjan Panda

"In Odisha, what we can see as ground reality is that more and more water bodies are being encroached by the rich and powerful both in urban and rural areas.  Now, after the Odisha High Court judgement, the government must immediately step into action and free all water bodies of Odisha from encroachment.

As we come to know from media reports, the Honourable High Court of Odisha has directed the government of Odisha to formulate a law to protect water bodies of the state within two years. Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) welcomes this judgement and thanks the Honourable Court for this.

On January 28, 2011 the honourable Supreme Court of India, in a historic judgement, had directed all the State Governments of the country to prepare schemes for eviction of illegal/ unauthorized occupants of Gram Sabha/ Gram Panchayat/ Poramboke/ Shamlat land saying these must be restored to the Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat for the common use of villagers of the village. WIO had then urged upon the Government of Odisha to see to the issues raised by this judgment and take appropriate action to free all water bodies of the state from all sorts of encroachments and ensure their protection and revival from the destructive forces including pollution from industries and urbanization.

As of now we don’t know what steps the state government has taken in that regard. What we can see as ground reality is that more and more water bodies are being encroached by the rich and powerful both in urban and rural areas. Now, after the High Court judgement, the government must immediately step into action and free all water bodies of the state from encroachment.

Surface water bodies play a major role in retaining rain water and recharging the local ecology. They are also a major livelihood support system for many poor farmers and communities depending on fishery. WIO therefore urges upon the government to immediately declare a Plan of Action to free all water bodies of state from all forms of encroachment.

Freeing water bodies from encroachments would also lead to some discontent among local people and some people might have to be displaced. The government must sensitively look into such issues and where it involves displacement of poor people the government should talk to them in a cohesive manner and provide appropriate rehabilitation.

However, where the water bodies are encroached by the rich and powerful such as estate developments and private builders they should be heavily fined and directed to restore the water bodies with their own funds. Odisha is already a water stressed state and we can no more neglect water bodies, WIO urges.

WIO has been urging upon the state government to formulate a Policy on Water Bodies. Time the government starts discussing with people and experts on this and builds a strong Policy to protect, preserve and rejuvenate all water bodies of the state. The state must ensure that not a single water body dies of encroachment, industrialization, pollution and urbanisation, WIO demands.


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