Archive for March, 2013

Mahanadi River Basin Turning Into Toxic Basin of Odisha

River Mahanadi Getting Polluted and Toxic

River Mahanadi Getting Polluted and Toxic

Mahanadi, the largest river of odisha that irrigates the heartland of the state and provides water both for drinking as well as irrigation purposes to most is under threat. Pollution is finally beginning to have its impact on the river.

The Mahanadi runs through 494 km within Orissa with five main tributaries and four major distributaries and is the largest river system among the 11 rivers in the state. It has a basin area of 65,628 sq km with a population of 1.62 crore. There are about 34 cities, towns and urban conglomerates in the Mahanadi river basin area inside Orissa. Till recently, the river used to be the chief source of drinking for most of these cities and towns. However of late the water of the river is getting unfit for human use chiefly due to the indiscriminate pollution caused by sewage released into the Mahanadi .

With 86 per cent of the catchments and major tributaries of the river upstream located in industrial towns in the neighboring States of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, the water of the Mahanadi is loaded with industrial wastes. The already contaminated water faces further mal treatment in human hands as the garbage of the town are dumped into it .

The bio-chemical oxygen demand in the Mahanadi has already reached an alarming stage and the water has become totally unfit for human use. The river itself has been classified as category ‘D’ river by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). It is only during the monsoons, when there is an increase in the level of water in the Mahanadi, that it is put in the “category C”.

To make things worse for the cities that dot its bank, sewerage system is completely nonexistent in the Sambalpur and Cuttack. All the waste water that is being produced in the cities get dumped in the river directly. The Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) estimates untreated domestic wastewater discharge from urban settlements in the Mahanadi basin at 3,45,000 m3 (m3 = 1,000 liters) per day, contributing a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) load of about 68.8 tones every day. To put it plainly, the OSPCB describes that direct consumption of water up to a stretch of six kilometers from Sambalpur town could lead to skin and stomach disorder of varying degrees.

Taking things into its own hand the OPSCB filed a criminal case against the Executive Officer of Sambalpur Municipality for his inability in handling the issue of pollution negligently thereby putting the lives of many in danger.  The case is pending in the court since 2010.  Subsequently the SPCB has even withdrawn the solid waste management authorization from the Sambalpur Municipality.

It is high time that the state government takes stern steps in this regard and make the river clean and safe for all.

Badi: Providing Employment to Many in Odisha

For most Odias no summer meal is complete without two dishes. The first is Pakhala and the second badi chura.  Thanks to the efforts of the state government the Pakhala has now got due recognition and March 20th of each year is now celebrated as Pakhala Diwas. Similar efforts by the government and now badi are reckoned as a crunchy side dish and available across multiple outlets not only in odisha but also out of the state.

Traditionally the badis have been made in every household of the state. These are dried and preserved food items that are consumed as crunchy side items with rice or water rice ( pakhala). Made from split black gram paste that is put to dry in sun as dumplings, badi has been a favorite item of housewives in odia houses from ages.

Though not much is known about its origin, it is widely believed that the crispy crunchy dumpling marked its beginning in the districts of Keonjhar amongst the tribal populace.  Even today it is offered as Prasad to the deities in many temples in Keonjhar. Ten varieties of the badis, for example, are offered to the deity in the Baldev Jew temple in Keonjhar district on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

It baffles imagination when one considers the fact that coming from the temples the badi has found its way to the dining habits of people of odisha. And what is more interesting is the fact that changing time the badi has dawned new roles. The dumplings are now available in different varieties and unlike common practice, are treated with spices and items like pumpkin, almonds, and cauliflowers to make it more appealing to the taste buds.

And also as it makes it way out of traditional odia homes to be sold in shops and outlets, badi  has become the source of income for many families . It is estimated that today, around 850 families in Orissa’s Keonjhar District alone earn their livelihood from Badi making.  The entire process has taken commercial proportion and bigger players in the market are turning on to mechanized production of badis to meet demands. What is heartening is the fact that now badis are in demand not only in other states of India but in countries like USA and China.

Various government agencies like ORMAS have helped a lot to market these commodities but as a popular odia dish, it also needs to be recognized just like the “pakhala”!


Odisha Economy – A lot Achieved;Still More to Go

Of late, there are good signs of Odisha’s progress! The Economic Survey Report  has come up with many interesting facts on odisha. These are

  • Odisha will grow at 9.14% in the year 2013-14.
  • The poverty index in odisha has fallen by 20.2% from 2004 to 2009.
  • Per capita Income in the state has soared to Rs 25,5484, a growth of 6.01% over 2011-12.
  • There has been a considerable appreciation in the collection of taxes in Odisha compared to that of other states.
Odisha Economy - A Lot Needs To Be Achieved

Odisha Economy - A Lot Needs To Be Achieved

But are these feel-good signs only numbers that satiate the mind of economists and the jargon of management students who seek to pepper their talks with fancy numbers?

Well, there have been great progress in the state in the past decade and as is known “numbers do not lie unless tampered with” but there are other side of the pictures that need to be taken into consideration.

The poverty index of odisha has fallen down greatly in the past decade but the regional and social disparities have widened and the imbalances are much wider. The extent of poverty on southern and northern regions of Odisha as well as among the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population has increased along with the decrease in poverty index. Similarly the standard of living of the agricultural laborers in Odisha is one of the lowest in India and is just ahead of Bihar.

The rise in per capita income of  Odisha again presents only a partial picture of the state of things. The standard of living in the state has no doubt risen in Odisha over the past decade but again the regional disparity continues in this respect too with the majority of rich being concentrated only in the urban patches of the state.  The per capita monthly expenditure in urban areas of odisha stand at Rs 1468.84 in 2011-12 compared to that of Rs 715.59 in rural areas of the same period.

Similarly though there has been considerable rise in the taxes collected by the state government, this is more due to the leverage that the government got from boom in mineral prices. Other factors that contributed to the growth in the tax collection was the revenues earned from petroleum products and motor vehicle taxes. According to the Thirteenth Finance Commission, the tax to GSDP ratio of the Odisha government should be more than 6.75% but it is estimated to be only 5.92% in 2012-13. The same ratio, it is being predicted will not go beyond 6.02% in 2013-14.

Going by all the indicators above, it can be safely assumed that though there has been appreciable change in the economy of Odisha in the past few years, there are still much left to be done. We need to address more on rural upliftment now than ever to stop the growing economic imbalance in the society