Water and River Ecology

The intensifying impact of climate change, an increasing demand for water, and cumulative effect of various development activities in the drainage area of the river, especially mining and heavy industry, are posing serious threats to riverine eco-systems and inducing resource scarcity. When left unchecked due to lack of river water resource management, this situation can lead to conflicts.

Odisha too is not immune to this emerging challenge. This is evident from the state’s ongoing disputes with Chhattisgarh (over sharing of waters of Mahanadi River) and Andhra Pradesh (over the construction of a canal project on the Vansadhara River).

It has created an urgent need for a comprehensive and holistic approach to manage rivers and for a change in our very perspective on these indispensable life sustaining resources. In order to address these issues, discussion and coordinated action among stakeholders, to evolve workable solutions, is imperative. The complexities involved in sustainable river basin management require both scientific perspective based rationality and an approach that foregrounds justice and equity.

Odisha has 11 major rivers, all of which suffer from maladies of one kind or other like over exploitation, pollution, encroachment etc. Its high time Odisha’s citizens got involved in tracking the health of their rivers and in demanding accountability and more effective action to sustain these lifelines.

Discussion Points:

  • What are the institutional arrangements within Government of Odisha (GoO) to deal with the management of the state’s rivers and have they been able to oversee equitable and sustainable use of this resource? If not, what needs to be done to augment their capacity and ensure greater efficacy?
  • How can other stake holders (industry, civil society, media, academia, and community) be involved in management of river basins? What are the available (and potential) mechanisms for cooperation and coordination of these relevant actors in the process?
  • Specifically, with regards participation by local communities, for improving river water management, what are the most effective institutions, mechanisms, and models that can be harnessed in Odisha?
  • Effective measures to protect Odisha’s rivers require up to date data and analytical studies of each of the 11 river basins. What, if any, are the available sources that could enable an informed debate and discussion? How can knowledge on the river systems be enhanced and made relevant on a real-time basis?
  • What river water management authority models from other states in India or even other countries can be useful for replication or adaptation in Odisha? Why?
  • While some media attention and campaigns by interested public has brought the issue of health of the state’s major rivers to light, the numerous tributaries and distributaries remain a grey area? How can these be effectively tracked, their status assessed, and community based solutions be developed for their governance?
  • SDG 6 seeks to ensure protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems (including rivers, forests, wetlands, and lakes) by 2020. Is Odisha still capable of meeting this deadline? What could be specifically focused on to achieve best possible outcomes given the time remaining and resources available?