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WIO terms decision permitting Posco to draw Mahanadi, Hansua water ‘illegal’, ‘corrupt’

Sambalpur: The Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) on Tuesday termed the recent decision of the Odisha Government permitting Posco to draw water from Mahanadi and Hansua rivers as ‘illegal,’ ‘corrupt’ and ‘unfortunate’ and demanded fresh environmental impact assessments (EIA) and public hearing.

“How can the Odisha government give permission to Posco taking a deviation from the original proposal without going for a complete assessment of the water availability, impacts of the drawal and related construction and other activities,” said WIO convenor Ranjan Kumar Panda in a press release, adding that this is clear cut violation of environmental laws and the government must roll back this decision.

Panda said, “There has been stiff and genuine opposition by farmers and general public against diversion of Mahanadi and Hansua water for Posco at the cost of drinking water for Cuttack and irrigation water at Hansua and any diversion of water from Hansua would lead to serious problems for the local farmers and their farm produces will be affected.”

In September 2010, WIO had objected to this move by the government saying it was making whimsical decisions by not doing appropriate study of water availability in Mahanadi and Hansua.  We had said that any change in the original proposal of Posco would mean having fresh environmental impact assessments and public hearing.  Even the Meena Gupta committee that inquired into violations of environmental laws by Posco took cognizance of all these problems and had rightly said if water is to be drawn from Hansua Nallah or any other source (other than Jobra Barrage) the Environmental impact has to be assessed and incorporated into the EIA and an opportunity to be heard given to the affected parties ought to have been given to the affected parties, Panda stated.

 WIO has been raising these issues with the government and asking disclosure of the assessment studies, if any, based on which these decisions are taken. This is more important in context of the fact that Posco had earlier rejected the idea of taking water from local sources terming those to be saline.  In the Chapter 5 of the existing EIA it has been mentioned that “This make up water requirement will not be met from the nearby surface streams like Mahanga River or Harua River etc within the study area as these streams are saline due to tidal effect.  The water source will be Mahanadi River near Cuttack about 85 km away from the plant site.” 

“Changing the plan to go for local ‘saline’ sources means changing technology and a fresh study of the impact of these technology on local environment is also called for,” urged Panda. 

 “If this latest permission does not mention about the water for production then it is another violation. We need a comprehensive assessment of all water that is going to be given to Posco for all its works and needs.  Most importantly public hearings should be made in Cuttack as well as among farmers and general people dependent on Hansua where the government must present the real figures and impacts.  Then only the government can think of giving any nod Posco”, said Panda.  

“WIO termed this decision of the government illegal and corrupt.  Further, taking this decision in such a dubious and non-transparent manner while the election code of conduct is in force, the government has proved that it has got scant regards for both the Constitution and the people. We urge the government to immediately withdraw this decision and go for fresh EIA of these new proposals,” said Panda.

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