By providing this knowledge and other guidance to the Orissa State Government we aim to show the role of wetlands in regulating water for the Manahadi Delta on the coast of Orissa.
The Orissa State Water Policy (2007) mandates that river basins must be considered as a whole; not just individual wetlands or parts of the river. The policy also makes ecological demands as the second top priority in any decision on the use of water, because the policy recognises the high ecological fragility of the state.
The Orissa Pani Panchayat Act (2002) also makes sure that farmers participate in the management of irrigation infrastructure. All these policies use the approach of Integrated Water Resources Management as a basis for planning, which means the inclusion of all water users - including the communities and nature areas - in the planning of water use.
Strong policies, little effect
Nevertheless, in reality little has changed; most water is still directed at agriculture and domestic water supply. And for wetlands - and the Mahanadi Delta contains many - these policies in reality do nothing.
Then there is the problem of the difference in policies at the state level and the level above that; on the scale of the entire Mahanadi Basin (of which the Delta is a part). The local values and integrated approaches are missing at that level.
Due to these two problems , the integrated approach stays mostly on paper and wetland management remains an activity on its own and is not included in planning at the state or basin level.
And how about climate change?
Another problem is the serious lack of any systematic information source on the functions and potential of the Delta, particularly how the Delta’s wetlands can act to reduce the impacts of climate change. Simply because there is no knowledge, the government puts all its hope on already implemented unsustainable engineering approaches, instead of letting nature do its work.
What we do to counter these problems
As a solution to these many problems, we work to provide the government with information on how the Delta’s wetlands function in reality. Through this knowledge we can develop an integrated approach for water management in the delta. In this work we strongly involve community organisations.
See also the pages on the South Asia Office website
Government: State government departments of Water Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development.
NGO: the People, Pallishree, Gramm Unnayan Samity, Researchers, Sanrakhyan.
Private Sector: Bottled Water Companies (of which Bisleri Water Company is the lead) which abstract river water for production processes.