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28 June, 2010

Civil Society rejects World Bank action plan for Orissa

The following is a Press Release from the Focus Orissa Forum on Climate Change, forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Hong Kong:

The draft Climate Change Action Plan of Orissa (CCAP) prepared at the aegis of the World Bank and DFID does not consider the concern and interest of common odia, neither reflect state’s seriousness towards self-discipline, sobriety and adaptation, rather vociferously reiterates its nexus with neo-liberal lobby which propounds reckless industrialization and unwarranted investment. Notwithstanding the fact that its citizens are either the victims of Climate Change or are the vulnerable lot at coast and the hills, in spite of living a low-emission or net-absorption livelihoods, the authors of the document treat them as the Climate Criminals while allowing the criminals to expand and multiply their crimes. With its focus on promoting investment-intensive mitigation measures as a tool to encourage state’s ongoing unabated industrialization drive, it looks more as an “Inv estment Plan for Industrialization and Mitigation’ offering almost nothing for state’s farmers, fishers, forest-produce gatherers.

Orissa government’s Draft Climate Change Action Plan with a huge budget of Rs. 17,000 crore seeks to help industries more by reducing their expenditure on adapting to climate change, while providing hardly any budget for the victims of climate change at Saatabhayaa, around Talcher and Jharsuguda. It proposes a 15 fold increase in the capacity of thermal power plants at the guise of improvement technology which alone could lead to at least thirteen times higher levels of emission of heat and pollution. One can imagine the hazards that already boiling Talcher and Jharsuguda will face in this scenario. A budget of Rs. 5,500 crore is made for reducing transmission and distribution losses which is only going to help private energy companies sell more electricity and make more money. On the contrary allocation of mere Rs. 4 crore for the establishment of biogas plants can support only about 5000 biogas plants, which is even insufficient for one block.

There is hardly any money allocated for developing small and micro level irrigation facilities or in providing adaptive seeds to farmers. There is no allocation for increasing the supply of electricity to farmers. On the other hand the government has planned for enhancing the fees for irrigation. Over the last ten years, the government has kept on increasing the fees it collects from farmers for supplying irrigation water to them, while allowing industries to use increasing quantities of water, often without formal permission and from sources earmarked for irrigation purposes, without having to pay much.

The plan has more than Rs. 3,000 crore for the forest department, while the villagers who have sacrificed so much to protect their forests under community forest management /joint forest management have been allocated nothing but a small amount of five crore rupees for training purposes. In transport sector, 80% of the allocated budget for this sector is for highways while there is no budget for rail or for promoting the use of non-motorised transport such as bicycles.

Two of the most critical areas climate change impacts are falling production in agriculture, livestock & fishery; and increasing health hazards due to heat related illnesses and accidents. There is no budget under the action plan for something as obvious and basic as preventing and treating heat strokes. The livestock sector is seen by the government less as a victim of climate change and more as a producer of methane. The climate change action plan accuses the farmers of Orissa of not killing old and unproductive cattle due to religious cultural reasons and that this leads to large methane emissions.

An overall reading of the Orissa climate change action plan leads to the following conclusions:

1. It’s a hurriedly drafted document ghost-written by the World Bank and other External Agencies.

2. Notwithstanding the importance and implication of the document, the process of preparation of draft document has not been inclusive. There has been no involvement of civil society and other non-government stakeholders including academia, researchers, legislatures, PRIs, NGOs and the important climate refugees and vulnerable communities from different parts of the state in the drafting processes. Even the comments and suggestions provided by some of these stakeholders who were invited to the hurriedly called 4 stakeholder consultations have been ignored and not incorporated.

3. It treats Orissa as a cause of climate change while Orissa is actually a victim of climate change. Naturally it wants to impose the price of reducing emission of green house gases on the ordinary people of Orissa, who lives either low-emission or net-carbon-absorption livelihoods.

4. In spite of the heat wave conditions that have killed thousands of people in Orissa, the Action Plan seeks to ratify the setting up of large numbers of new thermal power plans which will lead to at least thirteen times growth in emissions and pollutions, thus would risk temperature increase.

5. It accepts that climate change is going to cause erratic monsoons and increased incidence of droughts and reduce agricultural production. However it proposes not increasing irrigation coverage but increase in water tariff collected from farmers.

6. It blames the people of Orissa keeping their old cows and bullocks and encourages that they should allow such animals to die.

7. It pays only lip service to the issue of renewable energy such as biogas or solar powers and allocates very small budgets for these areas. On the other hand it allocates large amounts of public money to help electricity companies increase profits by reducing transmission losses.

8. It tries to peddle false assumptions that bio-fuels will lead to lower carbon emissions. Bio-fuels can only lead to saving in petroleum use but not reduce carbon emissions as when bio-fuels are burnt, that too released green house gases. It encourages the diversion of land to growing bio-fuels which will lead to reduction in the availability of food and fodder.

9. It pays lip service to development of public transport, railways and non-motorised transport. But it does not allocate any budgets for these while allocating 80% of the transport sector budget for highways.

10. It ignores the contribution of community forest management in protecting and developing Orissa’ forests and allocates no budget for helping villages that are protecting their forests to gain access to alternate livelihoods and alternate fuel sources.

11. It pays only lip service to preventing and curing the health impacts of increasing temperatures and makes no budget allocation for preventing or treating heat strokes in spite of thousands of people having died due to heat strokes in the last few years.

It is important that the government have a genuine participatory process where academics, people currently affected severely by climate change, other people under threat of climate change impact, experienced bureaucrats, civil society organisations, people’s representatives debate on the issue of impact of climate change on Orissa in a decentralized manner from below. The principal approach should be to ensure that the state has systems to generate resources from global funds as well as in judiciously directing its own resources for fighting climate change and its impacts. Such resources should be used to reduce the impact of climate change on the people of Orissa, especially the people who are more vulnerable and unable to adapt without external support. It is important that the state should ponder over its industrialization and extractive development trajectory and comes out with a policy based on self discipline, sobriety and temperance in resource use. This draft sh ould be rejected altogether and a new decentralized, inclusive process be initiated from below with multistakeholders participation with a spirit of Odia nationalism rather than under the influence of the World Bank.

Focus Orissa Forum on Climate Change
Sudarshan Chhotoray
Achyut Das
Biswajit Mohanty
Bibhudhendra P Das
Dr. J.Panigrahi
Dhirendra Panda
Pranb Choudhury
Manas Ranjan
Kalish Das
Tapan Padhi
Pravat Sutar
Prasant Mohanty
Mangaraj Panda
Bisikesan Jani
Ranjan Panda
Bibekananda Pattanaik
Bidyut Mohanty
Pradip Pradhan

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