MAC: Mines and Communities

Cm Addresses Aridity Fears

Published by MAC on 2006-06-05
Source: Statesman News Service

CM addresses aridity fears

Statesman News Service, BHUBANESWAR

5th June 2006

Chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik allayed fears of desertification taking place in certain perennially drought-prone areas of Bolangir and western Orissa districts.

Addressing a World Environment Day function here today Mr Patnaik quoted experts who had recently held a workshop for eastern Indian states on the subject. The consensus at the workshop was that Orissa is free from the threat of desertification in the near future, he said.

Dwelling on the theme for this year as declared by the UN, Mr Patnaik said desert and desertification of dry lands was to be addressed in right earnest as desertification increases poverty.

It is estimated that 40 per cent of the earth is dry land and with the immense pressure on land. Sustainable land management is the need of the hour and proper utilisation will avert desertification of such dry land.

He referred to the drought-prone area programmes and afforestation as well as livelihood schemes undertaken by the state government in the Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi region which is vulnerable to drought.

It is easier to prevent desertification than to reverse it, he stated, while harping on crop and land management, irrigation and livelihood schemes. Mr Patnaik touched upon the plantation schemes citing the instances of Titlagarh which is the hot spot of the state where temperatures rise to 50 degree Celsuis during summer. Plantation has been taken up over 150 hectares in Titlagarh he said.

The chief minister lauded the efforts of eco clubs and said 100 more clubs in each district will be formed. He also touched upon the successful restoration and conservation of the states major water bodies, particularly the Chilka lake.

Later Mr Patnaik gave away the Prakruti Mitra Awards.

Forest cover declines

The state's environmental health is threatened due to rapid loss of forests, growth of unregulated polluting industries and rampant mining. "There is a rapid decline in the state's forest cover since we lost 472 square kilometres of forest in two years as per the Forest Survey of India Report. We have also lost more than 12 square kilometres of mangroves," said Mr Biswajit Mohanty who is associated with several wildlife and environment protection organisations.

Lack of enforcement by the authorities concerned and the boom in iron ore trade have resulted in as many as 64 sponge iron units coming up in Keonjhar and Sundargarh threatening the water sources and agriculture field.

More than 1,200 stone crushers operate in the state and many of them violate pollution control rules, he contended.

Mining activity has increased several fold and all this has resulted in severe degradation of the state's environment which has a limited "carrying capacity" to assimilate the mining and industrial effluents in such a short time.

Analysing the future pressures on the environment, he observed that if all the MoUs for steel plants materialised, the state would have a production of more than 40 MT for which the water supply from the Mahanadi, Brahmani and Baitarani rivers would have to go up.

The state also aims at producing power using coal. State's industries and power stations presently emit about 164 MT of carbon dioxide (equivalent to total quantity emitted by India in 1996) which is about three per cent of the global emission of GHGs. After new metal and power units are commissioned, GHG emission from Orissa is estimated to jump to seven to ten per cent of global levels by 2010.

All this calls for a total comprehensive environmental impact assessment, to examine the combined effect of all the proposed projects in mining, metals and power production on the state's environment and livelihoods of local communities. Strangely, this has not been taken up as yet, he remarked.

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