Official apathy delays project

Apathy-DelaysThere is neither any dearth of funds nor land. Yet, the six million litres per day (MLD) drinking water project for Burla NAC which was declared way back in 2006 is awaiting execution.

Sources said negligence by the Public Health and Engineering Department (PHED) has delayed the project even though coal major Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) already released first phase of funds required to take up the work. The project which includes a water treatment plant is estimated at `8.62 crore.

MCL was approached to fund the project under its corporate social responsibility by the local administration and the management accepted it. Land for the project measuring 7.62 acre was also identified to which, Government too gave its nod. MCL has so far released `3.5 crore for the first phase work, but there has been no headway in the project even after seven years. Although tenders were floated for the work, they have not been finalised for reasons best known to the PHED.

At present, 4.5 MLD water is supplied to the Burla NAC. Owing to water scarcity, road picketing for drinking water is a routine affair and people wandering on streets for water with empty pots a common sight. With the town growing by leaps and bounds every year, the project was envisaged by the local administration.

Though Sub-Divisional Officer of PHED, Burla, Bhagyadhara Sahu did not speak about reasons behind the delay in the water project, he said work order would be issued soon.

Water Rights activist Ranjan Panda faults Odisha Govt for suppplying water from Hirakud Reservoir to Industries

Water Rights activist Ranjan Panda faults Odisha Govt for supplying water from Hirakud Reservoir is toIndustries. The way they have shut down the power plant while continuing to supply water to industries is illegal, alleges Ranjan Panda, Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha.

“Hirakud dam was originally constructed for flood control. Irrigation and power generation were incidental benefits. Providing water to industries at cost of power generation is a clear cut indication of the government’s vested tilt towards the industries”, Panda alleged further.

It is to be noted that, the dam’s power generation capacity has been drastically reduced by deliberate design, more so recently because of the favouritism towards industries. And on 17th June this year, when the dam authorities stopped releasing water for power generation, illegally, they created a history. For the first time in history of the dam, the power plant was completely stopped showing shortage of water as the reason, even though the water had not reached the dead storage limit, alleged Panda.

The dam’s Dead Storage Level of 590 feet is a stage from where irrigation and power generation should be stopped. For industries, however, the dead limit is said to be 595 feet. But, while on 17th June the storage level was about 593.75, the power supply was stopped but industries continued to draw water.

Local newspaper reports confirm that the dam authorities did an act of ‘eye wash’ by stopping water to Hindalco Industries at Hirakud on 17th June. However, the plant activities resumed in a few hours only. It is reported by the newspapers that the dam authorities had to release water to Hindalco succumbing to pressure of the Secretary, Water Resources Department of Govt. of Odisha.

Other industries also continue to draw water even as Hirakud’s water is receding and no canals could be supplied water on the stipulated date of 16th. WIO condemns such illegal and anti-people, anti-farmer act of the Water Resources Department and asks them to immediately stop water supply to industries and ensure water to irrigation canals, said Panda.

Unless the water supply to industries is stopped, irrigation will drastically suffer and conflicts in the command area will grow, warned Panda.

A dry reservoir is not merely due to scanty rainfall but also because of interceptions of Mahanadi’s flow by Chhattisgarh upstream. And despite repeated urge of Water Initiatives Odisha, the governments are not yet talking properly on managing Mahanadi in an integrated basin management approach. “The governments are only talking as knee jerk measure to reduce flood devastations and not for comprehensive and coordinated management of the entire River”, alleged Panda, adding, “such temporary and half-hearted approaches would neither reduce flood vulnerabilities during rainy season nor will solve such water scarcity situations during non-monsoon periods”.

High time the governments went for a holistic management plan of Mahanadi that is people-centric, open and transparent. Further, the governments should now admit that Mahanadi is a ‘water deficit river’ and accordingly stop giving away precious water to industries beyond a limit drawn on basis of proper ecological balance analysis keeping both present and future scenario in mind, said Panda.

Bargarh canal yet to get Hirakud water

The dry Hirakud dam reservoirThere is not enough water in the Hirakud dam reservoir for irrigation. Every year water is released from the reservoir through Sason canal, Bargarh main canal and Sambalpur distributary on June 16 for farmers to facilitate agricultural activities for the kharif crop. But with water level dropping to an alarming low of 593.65 feet, the Irrigation Department released just 200 cusecs of water into the Sason Canal on Monday. No water was released to Bargarh main canal and Samablpur distributary.

As per the working table formulated jointly by Energy Department and Water Resources Department during pre-monsoon period, the water level should be at a minimum of 595 feet.

However, with not much rain reported ever since monsoon arrived in the State, the situation at the reservoir has reached an alarming level.

In 2005, the water discharge was delayed by 12 days and for 17 days in 2006. It had triggered widespread agitation by farmers who suspected that water was being diverted to industries from the reservoir.

Subsequently, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik after a discussion with farmers declared that ‘not a single drop of water meant for irrigation would be diverted to industries’. He had even announced a package of ` 200 crore for renovation of the canal and dredging to enhance the water capacity of HDR. For the next three years – 2008, 2009 and 2010 – water was released into the canal in time due to dredging while in 2011 timely monsoon ensured smooth release of water. Last year, there was a delay in releasing water due to delay in monsoon.

Farmer leader Ashok Pradhan alleged that industries draw water from the reservoir which has led to the problem. He demanded a high-level inquiry.

Medicine stores raided

Even as youths are fast becoming addicted to habit forming drugs, a special drug squad led by Sambalpur Drug Inspector has been formed to raid various medicine stores across the town.

The squad along with police and Excise officials has been conducting raids since Tuesday evening and so far collected 18 samples which will be sent to the Government lab for tests.

Sambalpur Drug Inspector Priyaranjan Nayak said of the 18 medicine samples collected from stores, a maximum were ones containing Codeine Phosphate which is sedative and cannot be sold without prescription.

Nayak added that they have also received allegations about habit forming drugs being sold in betel shops.

Coal India gets into solar power

Coal India officials will do something unprecedented today – they will brainstorm with a select group of prospective bidders to decide on the technology to be used for setting up solar power plants. For once, mines won’t be on the agenda.

In a surprising diversification move, Coal India has decided to set up solar power projects across the country, the first of which would come up at Sambalpur in Odisha.

The purported reason for the world’s largest miner of non-renewable energy venturing into renewable energy, Coal India had told prospective bidders, is a growing realisation that the country’s coal reserve is not going to last for long.

“India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on,” Coal India’s bid document said.

The new tariff-based incentives for solar photovoltaic-based power generation, announced recently by the new and renewable energy ministry, is another reason Coal India is now looking at this option.

The power plant to be set up would be of 2 mw capacity initially, using crystalline solar photovoltaic panels in a modular form, which can be scaled up to have the requisite system to generate and export power to the main grid.

The solar farm would be spread over 9 acres in possession of Coal India.

The brainstorm session has been called to elicit suggestions and observations from prospective bidders on the scope of work and technical specifications.

While this will be a commercial project, Coal India is also mulling installing solar photovoltaic panels at Ranchi where its mining research arm, the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, is located.

This project of installing roof-top solar panels at the mining areas and staff colonies is aimed at reducing Coal India’s own energy bills, officials said.

Neyveli Lignite Corp, the other public sector coal mining company, is also actively venturing into solar power generation by setting up a 10 mw photovoltaic project near the Neyveli airstrip in the first phase. This will be increased to 25 mw later.