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“Orissa Water Forum” in collaboration with “Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India” has recently organized a Seminar on “Water Conflicts in Orissa” on 13th August, 08 in Bhubaneswar. The daylong event included the Orissa Launch of the Book ‘Water Conflicts in India – A million revolts in making’; Launch of website on Water Conflict on India Water Portal and two technical sessions on ‘Mapping of water conflicts in Orissa’ and ‘Methodologies in dealing with Water Conflicts’. This one-day seminar was attended by about 100 participants from different parts of the Orissa drawn from Govt Departments, academia, press, NGOs and advocacy sectors.
In the beginning, Mr. Achyut Das, Director, Agragamee, on behalf the OWF, welcomed the participants and provided a brief background to the event making stage set for the following sessions. The book launch session was chaired by Prof. Surya Kanta Mishra from Utkal University, Bhubaneswar. Prof P K Jena, Ex DG, CSIR launched the book and in his accompanying speech highlighted issues related to water harvesting, wastage of water, water pollution, participatory water management and awareness on water resources, while raising the need of rational pricing of water for the industry. K. J. Joy the lead editor of the book from SOPPECOM, Pune provided a brief overview of the book along with the background processes that lead to writing and publication of the book. Panelists including Mr. A. Behera, Principal Secretary, Water Resources Deptt, Govt of Orissa and Prof. R.M. Mallik, Retd Director, Nabkrishna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies, then presented critical reviews of the book from their sectoral perspectives. In his address to the audience, Prof. Mallik pointed out the lack of transparency on the characterization of conflicts, its origin and management. He stressed that the conflicts cannot be resolved merely by supplying quality or adequate water. Mr. Behera in his address accepted the rationale and need of the micro irrigation structures to avoid disturbances in ecosystem and other socio- economic problem, while also pointing out the complimentary requirement of large structures as per the demands of macro-economy. He also raised his concern over the constant depletion of groundwater by the industry and informed the present thinking in the Govt on hiking of water fee for the industries.
The website (http://conflicts.indiawaterportal.org/) was launched by Mr Aidan Cromin of Unicef while Mr Vijay Krishna, the web manager of India Water Portal, Arghyam Trust, along with Ms Shruti of SOPPECOM, explained the participants about its feature and the contents.
In the second session, chaired by Prof R N Mahalik and co-chaired by Prof Shambu Prasad of XIMB, Mr. Pranab Choudhury of OWF through his presentation provided a brief background of water conflicts along with a map of existing key conflicts in Orissa, setting the stage ready for eliciting conflict cases from the participants. It was followed by the presentation by Ranjan Panda of MASS, Sambalpur on industry vs agriculture highlighting the ongoing conflict in Hirakud and a presentation by Tapan Padhi on wetland conflicts in Orissa. This session was also moderated by Er Harish Behera, EIC, Govt of Orissa.
The technical session on methodologies in dealing with water conflicts, was chaired by Prof. D. P. Nayak, noted academician and socialist from Western Orissa and co-chaired by Prof. R. K. Panda, IIT Kharagpur and Er. Shridhar Behera, CE, Department of Water Resources. This session was kick-started with a lucid backdrop by Suhas Paranjape from SOPPECOM. Apart from a presentation by Er Banamali Nayak on technical mitigation of water conflict, there was lots of discussion around the cases, issues and methodologies of water-conflict in Orissa. The participants in the discussion were Prafulla Samantara, noted socialist and activist, Abhay Singh, Er. S.M Patnaik of Water Resources Department, Dr. Sishir Behera of OCTMP, Mr K Murali of AFPRO, Dr P K Mishra of CRIDA and several other NGO leaders, activists, academicians, farmer leaders and media persons. The session also witnessed brilliant summarizations of conflict frameworks and concepts by Dr Parthasarathy of GIDR, Ahmedabad and Dr Janakarajan of MIDS, Chennai, two key figures in water sector research in India.
Towards the end, Mr. Pranab Choudhury of OWF briefly presented the future plans of the OWF and about the project on Water Conflict in Orissa that will be launched as a state initiative of the “Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India”. Ranjan Mahapatra of Shristi offered the vote of thanks. The seminar was organized by with the financial support from SOPPECOM, Actionaid, and Center for World Solidarity and WaterAid.