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Coastal erosion in Odisha making several villagers refugees in their own state

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  • Villages on the east coast of India have been impacted by erosion by the sea over the last few years, with some of them being completely engulfed by the sea as well.
  • In addition to recurring cyclones, human-made structures such as dams and ports have aggravated coastal erosion, say experts.
  • Impacts of the erosion is also threatening the mangrove cover which is a natural deterrent against erosion. Geo-tubes, sea walls and other artificial measures provide only temporary relief.

Podampetta is a coastal village in the Ganjam district of Odisha. Few years ago had several households which were primarily involved in fishing trade. Now, in 2020, it has only five households. The rest of the village has been resettled by the state government to a new area called New Podampetta, around 300 metres away from the village on the eastern coast of India.

The resettlement of the entire village was triggered by the massive coastal erosion the village witnessed in the last few years. The village lies along the Bay of Bengal, now at a distance of only 50 metres from the sea. Several houses there have been damaged by natural disasters and are now lying in dilapidated conditions.

“Several houses in my village were damaged due to coastal erosion. The sea which was around 500 metres away from our village is now only around 50 metres away now. Due to high tides and strong waves, the village has seen severe damages while much of the beach has been engulfed by the ocean in the last few years,” said Gyan Bohrai, a resident of the village.

Around 15 kilometers away from Podampetta, there is another village named Arayapalli where one can spot the massive damages erosion has caused over the last few years. Arayapalli is within a kilometre north of a minor port where a breakwater has also been constructed in the sea, to prevent erosion.

A scene of Arayapalli village in Odisha. Credit-Pramit Karmakar
A scene of Arayapalli village in Odisha. Photo by Pramit Karmakar.

A Telugu-speaking fishing community had been living in this area and relying mostly on fishing activities.

“After the port came into existence, the levels of coastal erosion have increased. They also constructed a long breakwater into the sea. In the last 10 years, the sea erosion in this area had been severe. The government tried to put some rocks at the coast to arrest the erosion but in vain,” said Madhu Trinath, a fisherman from Arayapalli.

Besides these two villages of Ganjam district that have been impacted by erosion, several villages in other five coastal districts of Odisha have seen massive destruction with some even fully engulfed into the Bay of Bengal. Recently, thousands of people from vulnerable areas in the state have been resettled to other safer villages.

Erosion-triggered displacement

Ranjan Panda, a climate change expert from the state and convenor of Water Initiatives terms the resettled population as “climate refugees” where the original inhabitants of a region are made refugees because of climate-induced causes. He cited the example of Satabhaya village in Kendrapara district where six villages were completely submerged into the sea and the villagers were later shifted to other areas. He attributed climate change as well as human interference in coastal areas as prime reasons for aggravating coastal erosion.

Panda also pointed out that mangrove plantations, which act as a natural deterrent to sea erosion, were shrinking. “Coastal erosion cannot be tackled unless you take care of rivers and mangrove plantations. Low sedimentation from rivers to sea due to dams, shrimp cultivation in mangrove plantation areas, climate change and other human activities have triggered loss of mangroves,” he said, adding that the mangrove belt, now under threat, is a natural deterrent to sea erosion.

Patches of mangrove plantations in Kendrapada district of Odisha. Credit-Manish Kumar
Patches of mangrove plantations in Kendrapada district of Odisha. Photo by Manish Kumar.

Odisha is home to one major port at Paradip and several minor ports also exist along the coast. Notwithstanding the threat from erosion, the government is also attempting to boost tourism to the state’s beaches.

Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh faces coastal erosion too

Similar to Odisha’s situation, in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, the Uppada panchayat has seen the worst damages due to coastal erosion. Residents of several of its villages have been displaced due to the ingress of sea into the land owing to coastal erosion, leaving behind broken houses and damaged properties.

“Five villages in the Uppada panchayat have been completely resettled – around 3,000 people have been shifted from their original place of habitation. In the last few years the sea has moved almost 2.5 kms into the land. We have personally seen several houses getting uprooted and local properties being damaged due to the erosion,” said Chokka Prasad, a resident of Uppada.

According to the villagers of Uppada, the government attempted to arrest the effect of sea erosion by the construction of synthetic geo tubes on the beach where large bags of sand are covered with heavy rocks and tied together and placed at the beach to prevent further loss by erosion.

According to Prasad though, while this helped in the initial days, the barrier itself has been damaged as it has also eroded and been engulfed by the sea. The East Godavari and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh have also witnessed erosion and experts attribute it to increased human activities and construction along the coast.

The destruction at Uppada in Andhra. Credit-By Arrangement
The destruction at Uppada in Andhra. Photo by special arrangement.

Rama Subramanyam, Principal Coordinator, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Machillipatnam said the deep water ports and other human-made obstructions aggravate erosion. He also talked about the demand for other preventive measures beyond geo tubes. Experiments of geo-tubes are also done in Odisha, Tamil Nadu and other areas.

“Geo tubes are expensive but the rate of erosion has come down but not stopped. But now it seems to be laid again due to damages. It demands quite an expense. The structures are slowly going to be under the sea. So people are now demanding other options like beach nourishment and others where sedimentation from outside could be used to boost the beach,” he said.

A damaged geo-tube at Uppada in Andhra Pradesh. Credit-By arrangement
A damaged geo-tube at Uppada in Andhra Pradesh. Photo by special arrangement.

Others have also raised apprehensions about the utility of sea walls and geo tubes. “I don’t think this to be a good idea to counter erosion. These structures are likely to be taken back by the sea soon. Instead of construction on beaches, you need to explore the opportunities of off shore barriers where the waves are made. These have been utilised in places like Kaikee beach in Japan and in some places in Sri Lanka too and proved as a better option. These not only prevent erosion but boosts deposition,” said K Nageswar Rao, Professor (Emeritus) at the Department of Geo-Engineering in Andhra University.

Rao also said that the increase in construction of dams has added to the problem. “Rivers bring sedimentation with them towards sea to nurture the beaches. Dams affect the free flow of sediments towards the sea and affect the natural process of sea nourishment. Moreover, the mangrove plants which act as a buffer zone for beaches also need a combination of sea water and fresh water to grow but lack of incoming of fresh water and sediments can affect growth of the buffer zone along beaches,” said Rao.

Eastern coast more prone to erosion

The southernmost part of the eastern coast, Tamil Nadu, has also witnessed erosion by the sea.  The state has two major ports, at Chennai and Thoothukudi, and 13 coastal districts. According to the 2018 report of the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Chennai, 41 percent of the coast in Tamil Nadu has eroded between 1990 and 2016.

Several coastal areas of the state like Thiruvottiyur, Oyalilkuppam, Periyakuppam and others faced coastal erosion. In the neighbouring Union Territory of Puducherry, 57 percent of the coastline has been eroded between 1990 and 2016, as per the same study. Experts in Tamil Nadu claim that in terms of geomorphology, the eastern coasts are different from western coasts and more prone to erosion and need better conservation and more attention.

“We have more erosion of the coasts in eastern India than in western India.  In western India the coasts are mixed with rocky areas that protect them from erosion. In eastern India we have more plain and long beaches.” S. Srinivalu, former director of Institute of Ocean Management (ION), Anna University said.

Mary Divya Suganya from the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai also said that human constructions along the beaches often are linked to aggravating the risk of coastal erosion.

According to a 2018 national study of the Indian shoreline, human activities particularly urbanisation and economic activities in coastal areas turned coastal erosion into a problem of growing intensity. It claimed that man made (anthropological) effects like construction of coastal structures, mining of beach sand, offshore dredging and dams on rivers are prime reasons for triggering erosion.

Meanwhile, several severe and minor cyclonic storms entering into eastern Indian coasts, experts have said, added to sea erosion as they damaged the mangrove and other green belt with large sedimentations as well as caused other damage to beaches.

New constructions in coastal areas governed by CRZ 2019 notification

According to a written reply given by the Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Ministry of Science and Technology in Lok Sabha, the government has identified 98 coastal erosion hotspots in 11 coastal states/UTs.

“The Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change has issued the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) 2019 notification with a view to conserve and protect the unique environment of the coastal stretches and marine areas, besides livelihood security to the fisher communities and other local communities in the coastal areas. The new constructions in coastal areas are being governed by this notification,” the minister had said in the Parliament in his response to query on sea erosion threats.

According to the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) which analysed the data of  6632 km of the mainland coastline for 26 years (1990-2016), about 2247 km (34%) of mainland coast is under varying degree of erosion ranging from low, moderate and high.

Another response from Babul Supriyo, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change made in Lok Sabha on December 2019 claimed that initiatives like mangrove plantation of about 16000 ha, shelter belt plantation of 1900 ha and installation of Geo-Tubes in 500 m have been taken up with a cost of Rs 86 crores.

However the government is at the same time planning to boost the major and minor ports along Indian coasts for the ambitious Sagarmala project and also planning to construct coastal highways.

The story was first published in Mongabay India. Read the original story here.

Patra’s double standard: SIT for Hathras, CBI for Pari case

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Blink News Network

Bhubaneswar, Dec 5: National Spokesperson of the BJP Sambit Patra today visited the village of Pari, the minor deceased who was allegedly abducted and murdered in Nayagarh district. The incident has now created a state-wide uproar and posed questions on the law and order in the state.

Patra during his visit to the village met the parents of the deceased and later fired several salvos against the BJD-ruled state. During his interaction with the media, he showed full faith in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and demanded a CBI inquiry into the case.

He said that the state police and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) cannot be believed and that the parents of the deceased had allegedly told him that the police is harassing the kin and also acting like ‘gundas’.

This in sharp contrast to the infamous case of Hathras where a girl was allegedly raped and murdered. Patra during his interviews with the national media talked about a SIT probe, under the state government and showed confidence on the state government led probe into the case. This was when several serious questions were raised on the action of police like late night burning of the body of the deceased and other alleged forceful actions.

The whole BJP and some of the pro-BJP channels were also terming the visits of the rival political parties to Hathras as drama meant to allegedly derive political mileage. The whole world also saw the massive police arrangements which prevented media, politicians to met the families family of the deceased while several netas also faced the beating of the Uttar Pradesh Police.

However, in Odisha, Patra faced no such obstacle of police force and visited the village and met the family members of the deceased. He strongly demanded a CBI probe into the matter. He also said that the Congress party is hand in gloves with the BJD in the state. He also demanded removal of the state minister Arun Sahoo.

At the same time, in-charge of Odisha Congress A Chellakumar also visited the site and demanded a SIT probe under the monitoring of a judge of the Orissa High Court. He also said that the CBI had a bad history of delayed and botched up cases.

Lenin Mohanty, BJD spokesperson on the other side said that the SIT has been doing good work and asked where Patra and Chellakumar in other sensitive cases in the state.

NGT gives Odisha last warning to submit Action Plan on elephants

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By: Sonali Singh

Bhubaneswar, Dec 4: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its latest order has now given the Odisha government last chance to submit an Action Plan on notification of its proposed 14 Elephant Corridors.

This comes after the state government missed multiple deadlines to submit their Action Plan despite the NGT pressing for the same. The NGT in its earlier order on March had asked the state government to submit an Action Plan with defined time period on Elephant Corridor notification.

The tribunal in March had asked them to submit the same within two months. The defying government however in its tribunal hearing in September too failed to submit the same. In its latest hearing on November the government again expressed its helplessness and demanded extension of time. It cited the time required to consult more stakeholders on the issue for buying more time.

The NGT has now given them the last extension. In its latest tribunal order the NGT said, “Considering that the order for the preparation of the action plan was passed on 26.03.2020 which was more than five months ago, it was expected of the State to have expedited the process to complete the work. However, considering the submissions made by the learned Counsel for the State, in the interest of Justice, we allow the time sought for as a last opportunity,”

The order of the NGT came after the Wildlife Society of Orissa led by wildlife expert Biswajit Mohanty filed a case before the NGT on the matter few years back. The government earlier in 2017 told the NGT that they hired one Asia Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) for studying the matter which submitted its report on January 12, 2018. The NGT has asked them state to submit their Action Plan based on the ANCF recommendations.

The government claims that they have identified 14 Elephant Corridors but yet to notify the same. The NGT had asked the government to submit them an Action Plan on the same with defined time period. Shankar Prasad Pani, NGT lawyer told The Blink that if the elephant corridors are notified expansion of mining and industries in such zones could be challenged and the defined corridors can also help in reducing human-elephant conflict.

74% of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao funds lying unused in Odisha

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By: Sonali Singh

Bhubaneswar, Nov 29: A massive 74 percent of the funds given by the Union government to the state government for utilization under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme has been lying unused for years, the state Women and Child Development Minister Tukuni Sahoo told the Odisha Assembly today.

In a written reply to an unstarred question, the minister said that since 2017-18 the Odisha government received a total of Rs 392 lakh from the Union government under the scheme but it was able to spend only Rs 102 lakh (26 percent) since then while 74 percent of the funds remained untiliised.

“The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme has been implemented by the central government since the 2017-18. The funds are provided by the central government since the 2017-18 financial year and has been spent in 15 districts of the state,” she said.

The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme aims to address the critical issue of declining Child Sex Ratio. The specific objectives of the scheme included-

preventing gender-based sex selective elimination, ensuring survival and protection of the girl child, ensuring education and participation of the girl child through coordinated and convergent efforts.

The funds were alliocated for 15 districts of Odisha where it was envisioned that the funds could be used to boost ways to arrest unfair sex ratio and favour the school education of girl children.

Handloom, handicraft least exported items from Odisha, Assembly told

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By: Sonali Singh

Bhubaneswar, Nov 28: The State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Minister Dibya Shankar Mishra today informed the Odisha Legislative Assembly that the handlooms and handicraft works from the state are among the least exported items.

The revelation from the government came into the fore, after the minister submitted a written reply to an unstarred question on the exports of good from the state. The minister in his reply said that while metallurgical good and minerals continue to dominate the export basket of the state, the works of craftsmen from the state fail to fetch good returns.

The written statement said that in the last fiscal from the metallurgical goods, the total export revenue stood at Rs 24811 crore, the highest in the state while it was followed by minerals which was around Rs 14627 crore.

However among the 11 goods that are exported from the state, handloom products fetched the lowest exports worth Rs 0.90 crore followed by handicraft items which was at Rs 3.08 crore in 2019-20.

Noteworthy that the state is home to some of finest handloom and handicraft items like Sambalpuri saree, Bomkai Saree, ikat designs, Pattachitra works, Dhokra arts, papier mache works and tribal jewellery among others.

More than half of teaching posts in Odisha varsities are vacant, govt tells Assembly

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Blink News Service

Bhubaneswar, Nov 26: The state government in a staggering revelation today said that a massive 53 percent of the total sanctioned posts in 10 state universities are lying vacant, hinting towards the poor state of affairs in the state.

The disclosure was done by none other than the State Higher Education Minister Arun Sahoo. The minister who handles more than one department alone today in a written statement said that the government has sanctioned a total of 1426 teaching posts which comprised posts of professors, associate professors and assistant professors.

Take the example of its premier Utkal University in Bhubaneswar. It has 47 sanctioned posts of professors but only 12 posts are filled and rest 35 are vacant. Out of the 76 sanctioned posts of associate professors it has a large 44 posts vacant.

Same is the condition of other state universities like Ravenshaw University, Berhampur University, Fakir Mohan University, Sambalpur University and others.

Despite recruiting teaching staff in adhoc basis, the state seems to be struggling to get teaching staff in several subjects. Lack of quality of education due to lack of teachers have propelled many citizens to send their children outside state, depriving the state of talented kids and leading to brain drain.

Recognition of third gender a far cry in Odisha state universities

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By-Nidhi Sinha

Bhubaneswar, Nov 26: Most Odisha government-run universities in the state are still not giving any recognition to the third gender despite the Supreme Court and related legislations batting for creating equal opportunities for the community.

This is against several central universities and state run universities in other neighbouring states which have recognized them as third gender and also given them option to opt for the same while taking admissions into different courses in Under Graduate (UG) and Post Graduate (PG) courses.

However unlike other progressive states many state public universities like Utkal University and other premier education institutions have not taken any step to provide them option to recognize and declare them original gender. The recent spree of admissions in several universities showed that the educational institutions and the state government is not in a hurry to do the same.

Representatives of the transgender community in the state claimed that most Odisha universities have not dared to opt for their recognistion but some central institutions have done so.

“Most Odisha universities have failed to give any option for the community to declare their gender by shunning the option to create an extra column for the third gender. However central educational institutions like IGNOU have started taking the initiative,” Meghana Sahoo, Secretary, All Odisha Transgender Association told The Blink.

Sahoo also said that the state department of Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SSEPD) in the last few months has also written to the School and Mass Education Department and Higher Education Department to recognize the third gender but till now hardly any educational institute has taken such initiative.

This comes against the 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court which batted for gender equality and creation of gender neutral environment in education institutions and other public places. Lately, Delhi University, Calcutta University and Mumbai University among several others followed the league and gave recognistion to the third gender, but Odisha still seems to be reluctant to join the bandwagon.

The Indian Parliament in 2019 also passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill to pave way for equal opportunities for the third gender and non-discriminatory society. It asked the governments to frame rule to ensure equal rights for the transgender in educational institutes too.

After uproar, govt orders changes in its plan to close down smaller schools

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By-Pramit Karmakar

Bhubaneswar, Nov 22: The School and Mass Education Department today announced continuing with their plan to merge smaller schools but made some minor changes after political uproar inside and outside the Odisha Assembly.

School and Mass Education Department Minister Sameer Ranjan Das today said that the government decided to merge schools in scheduled tribes only where the enrollment is less than 15 per cent. He also cited the new education policy to buttress the decision taken by the government.

“It has been decided that schools with less than 15 students, will be merged with other nearby schools in schedule areas.  Similarly, schools having less than 20 students in non-schedule areas will be merged with nearby ones. Around 3,000 such schools having an attendance of less than 15 students are functioning in schedule areas,” the minister said.

The minister said that the government has started processing for the merger of as many as 7772 schools in schedule and non-schedule areas. He also indicated that merger of small schools with others would create a good academic environment and lead to quality education. The government has not gone beyond rules, he said.

Senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said, “We demand that the government should set minimum 15 students as its norms for schedule areas and KBK areas for merger. Despite our demands for KBK, the minister has not taken care of our concerns. We will raise it in the House again,”

Congress MLA Taraprasad Bahinipati threatened to kill self by slitting throat in front of the Speaker if the government doesn’t change its decision. Similarly, BJP member BC Sethy said that the government’s move would encourage dropouts as the small children will not go to attend classes in their new schools by covering long distances.

8.9L educated youths in Odisha are jobless, govt tells Assembly

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Bhubaneswar, Nov 22: The State government in its written statement submitted before the Odisha Legislative Assembly today admitted that a total of 8.9 lakh educated youths from the state are jobless.

The data was furnished by the State Skill Development Minister Pramananda Nayak. He told the House that as per the statistics from the employment exchange live register, a total of 8.96,838 youths having degrees ranging in Under Graduate (UG), Post Graduate (PG), Diploma but are jobless.

These youths with their degrees in hand are said to have approached the government seeking their attention in giving jobs through employment exchanges. These included 1.82 lakh youths with UG degrees, 11,358 PG candidates and 33,747 Diploma candidates.

Several other candidates with BEd, MEd, teachers’ training and others are also without job, hinting towards the massive unemployment existing in the state.

The minister however talked in detail about several old schemes which were used to fetch employment for the youths. The minister said that the State Employment Mission was launched in 2005-06 to help in skill development training while another Skill Development Mission was started in 2016-17.

He also boasted about the Chief Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (CMEGP) which was able to fetch 13,66,116 jobs in the last six year and Defence Recruitment Rallies which helped in getting 5,027 youths getting jobs in the last six years.

Made in India Diwali products fail to fetch profits for Bhubaneswar traders

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A shopkeeper waiting for his customers during Diwali shopping. Credit-Pramit Karmakar
By: Pramit Karmakar
Bhubaneswar, Nov 17: Several traders in the smart city soon after hearing about ban on cracker sales, roped in several other alternatives to lighten the spirits of Diwali enthusiasts. Buoyed by the concept of selling ‘Made in India’ products, several traders tried their hands with indigenous products to fight cracker ban implications and compete with Chinese products but in vain.
However marred by the ban, Covid 19 outbreak and loss of income by the middle class due to subsequent lockdowns, this Diwali failed to bring the anticipated wealth to the traders community. Despite several Made in India electronic products entering into the local markets like Bapuji Nagar, the middle class buyers, which comprise the bulk buyers preferred low cost Chinese products while several refrain from spending much this Diwali.
A shopkeeper looks at the crowd for selling his products this Diwali. Credit-Pramit Karmakar
Nevertheless, beyond the electronic market, several middle and low income traders, small size shopkeepers and vendors during this season had roped in several other eye catching alternatives to crackers like special lights, illuminating balloons and several others items, however it failed to attract the customers en masse.
Sroto Saswat Das is a trader at Unit I Bhubaneshwar for the last 10 years. He told The Blink, “Lesser number of people turned up than usual owing to the pandemic. We sell crackers every year but this year we got onto the business of diyas. We purchased and targeted a higher amount of sale in diyas as crackers are banned but in vein,”
Jyotikanta Biswal a trader at Unit I area for the last 5 years. He took up lights for sales this year. He said that post cracker ban, the markets were anticipating good sale of other items but it didn’t happen.
A scene outside Unit II market in Bhubaneswar. Credit-Pramit Karmakar
He said, “The rates were a bit higher and people were lesser, half of the customers were seen busy in bargaining and not willing to pay the prices. The traders and shopkeepers made losses this Diwali season or made a minor profit share unlike previous years,”
However on the occasion of Dhanteras, a day before Diwali several streets were seen jammed during the evening. However as per traditions, most buyers were glued to jewellery shops, furniture shops and the seasonal market trade faced a backlash.
Jewellery shops at Janpath, Master Canteen and others saw good crowd despite the pandemic. Even several volunteers and police force had to intervene to de-congest surging crowd in the roads post 7pm.

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