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BY SUDARSHAN CHHOTORAY
We need to review and revisit Odisha Climate Change Action Plan
The hurry on which Odisha Climate Change Action Plan (OCCAP) has been finalised without adequate consultation with all stake holders has raised a many eyebrows. Though Government of India has already announced the inclusion of all State Action Plans and National Plan on Climate Change under 12th Plan it needs to mention here that, state plans like OCCAP is grossly inadequate to address the vulnerability of the people of the state. Once fund mobilised there will be a mechanism for better use of Budget and sanctioned amount besides monitoring mechanism at Central level but what about state level, there is no mention of it in OCCAP.
The casualness with which the Odisha Climate Change Action Plan (OCCAP) has been approached calls for a total rejection of this process. Climate change and its associated phenomena are primarily an issue of justice, fairness and dignified survival of the masses of people in the tropics – it is primarily a political issue, multi-scalar, global as well as local. However, the global elite (including the elites in India) have tried to keep it confined within a techno-scientific discourse and ignore the political and justice aspect of climate change. This approach has ensured that the vast majority of the marginalised and poor people in the world have been condemned to an existence of massive livelihood and survival uncertainty at best and mass genocide at the worst. The targets accepted in the various climate summits i.e. a permissible rise of 2 deg. Centigrade ensures that the poor majority of the world is condemned to suffer massively while the elites can escape the consequences of their consumption.
In this context, a democratic polity in a country like India would stand by its majority, and seek to ensure that their interest is protected in the global arena. It also becomes important that the state government of Odisha, which is extremely vulnerable to climate change, would keep the interests of their citizenry uppermost in its plans and proposals. The high percentage of rural population and dependence of majority on natural resource based livelihoods implies that people of Odisha are extremely vulnerable to climate change and its projected effects. At the same time, very low purchasing power ensures that the resilience that comes from being part of a globalised, market based economy is unavailable to the majority of Odisha’s people.
In this situation, the OCCAP, as prepared by consultants engaged by World Bank and DFID (which represent the interests of the western over consuming elites and global corporations) fails in its very inception to address the core issue discussed above. Politically, the OCCAP is a purely neo-liberal document, prepared in a techno-bureaucratic fashion, wherein public participation has become a farce. It is undemocratic procedurally as well as in substance, and serves only the interest of its western sponsors and the miniscule ruling elite of Odisha. The focus of the OCCAP remains on extractive economy feeding the consumption needs of the western and Indian over consumers, while paying only lip service to the vast majority of citizens of Odisha. The emphasis on energy sector, while trying to become the greatest centre of coal based thermal power production in the world, signifies these interests. Nowhere is the environmental and social costs of this ambition, including the locally significant heat Island effects which has played havoc in places such as Talcher and Jharsuguda has been mentioned. If this is the response of the Odisha state to the future crisis facing us, the majority of the people of Odisha are doomed.
The civil society of Odisha, quit objected the process both in procedure and substance. However, though participated in post draft discussions and had provideed hints of how alternate and people friendly action plans can emerge through participatory and democratic processes. Procedurally, the plan needs to be bottom up, based on large-scale public consultations starting from Panchayat levels. Let the people know what are the possible impacts of climate change and the fact that they are being sacrificed at the altar of overconsumption. Substantively, the focus of the plan must be on vulnerability (ranging from scales of households, villages and regions), livelihood security and food security. It need to add, food security separately as the collateral effects of climate change in combination with global politics of food commodities (as evidenced by the recent global food prices spikes) ensures that within the next few years, food itself may be priced out of reach of majority of the people of Odisha.
All mitigation efforts as well as adaptation efforts must be evaluated on these three criteria. Otherwise even mitigation efforts such as carbon sequestration through trees or bio-fuel production has massive potential to displace livelihoods as well as make people more vulnerable. This is already being observed in context of various plantation programmes being implemented by the Forest Department in Odisha.
They reiterated that climate change is primarily a justice issue. Majority of the people of Odisha, whose contribution to global warming has been close to zero, are going to suffer because of the cumulative overconsumption and greed of a small proportion of world’s population, who unfortunately hold all reins of power at global and national scales. This is intolerable and highly unjust, and the fact that the CCAP doesn’t even mention this fact, and tries to protect the interests of the same over consumers, implies that the government of Odisha is blind to this injustice to its own people.
Thus this civil society submission is not only a notice to the state of Odisha, it is also a call for action to all concerned to stand up against this injustice and seek to protect the interests of the people of Odisha.
Basic principles and priorities, on which the OCCAP is premised, need to be clearly defined in the beginning. Defining targeted/Prioritized constituencies as per vulnerabilities: 1-Geographies: Apart from Coastal, Drought prone Western Odisha, over-stressed mining and industrial belts (viz. Talcher, Jharsuguda, Kalinga Nagar),2-Communities : Tribal, Fishermen, Salt Workers, marginal and small farmers,3-Sectors : More focus on primary sectors like Agriculture, high ecological foot print sectors like energy, mining and industry. Defining approach: Instead of overwhelming focus on mitigation, adaptation and prevention (restrain) required to be provided more attention. Treatment of disease rather than treatment of symptom should be the focus. In this context, whether the existing development path should be continued or reoriented in climate change context need to be clearly spelt out.
Need of adopting a Paradigm shift in Process of OCCAP formulation: Considering the important and differential implications of climate change on common and vulnerable communities in the different geographies of the state, there is no alternative to a bottom-up, inclusive and more democratic process of CCAP development through multi-stakeholders dialogues. Therefore, the climate change response and preparedness consultation must start at least from block-level (preferably from GP level) upwards.
Avoiding hurry: Climate change is a complex phenomenon with more political undertones and manifestations and often used by the neo-liberal investment lobby as a ploy to drive economic gain from poor countries. More than 90% of the state’s citizen may not be also aware of the climate change concept, process and implications except for the changes they see in temperature, rainfall or coastal erosion, which could be mostly local or cyclic (temporal phenomenon). To have an informed debate and inclusive participation of climate victims, vulnerable and common citizens on climate change action plans and policy of the state, GOO must be prepared to invest time and resources in building awareness, capacity and platforms. Such hurried attempts with dictated participations of elites have the danger of making the state and its poor citizens more vulnerable.
Projections of climate change implications and Vision Plan: Civil societies strongly feel the need of analyzing the climate change implications of ongoing development trajectory to develop a future calendar with sector-wise carbon emission/ecological foot prints till 2050. Based on this calendar, an alternate strategy with moratoriums on foot-print sectors and concessions/incentives to hand-print (carbon absorbing) sectors (including potential sectors) must be provided. Budgetary allocation should follow this strategy, unlike the present plan which suggests vice versa.
Vulnerability mapping: Mapping of vulnerability to climate change contexts (as per the projections in para 2 above) with use of GIS tools incorporating agro-climatic, poverty geographic, socio-economic and cultural layers is a prerequisite to prioritize resource allocations in a OCCAP. It is also required to add temporal projections to it taking into consideration state’s ambitious industrialization and mining drive. This has been completely ignored in the present draft.
Prioritized Prospective Land use plan: Considering already intensified conflicts around land, water and forest resources in Odisha along with the multi-dimensional pressures on them by neo-liberal land-use lobbies (bio fuel, mining, hydro-power, industrial, SEZ etc.), GOO must consider preparing Prospective Land-Use Plan keeping larger time horizon in mind in the context of climate change.
Implementation through Inter-sectoral Integration: in the climate change context, Vulnerability, Food Security and Livelihoods are key cross-thematic areas. Therefore realigning of sectoral priorities along these cross-thematic contexts, will make the Climate Change preparedness more meaningful and effective. Proposed Agency for Climate Change should function directly under Chief Minister (could be Planning and Coordination Department or an Autonomous body), in line with handling of national action plan by PMO, to oversee, coordinate and monitor the CCAP. It is not logical to be vested with Forest and Environment Department, who has not good reputation of handling regulatory body like Odisha Pollution Control Board (OPCB).
Source of investment: Tax payers’ money especially from a very low-emission or net-absorption state like Odisha should not be spent on high cost mitigation measures, neither the poor citizens of the state should be allowed to be burdened with loan from multilateral agencies. All big investments towards clean technology should be paid by the polluting countries from the west.
Addressing Vulnerability: Planning Climate Change Actions as per agro climatic zone, OCCAP must address vulnerability of small and marginal, poor and tribal farmers; it must promote farmers’ institutions to interact with other stakeholders, Strategy on Weather insurance and Backup plan for disasters must be clearly spelled out. Strategy to combat land degradation, to promote crop diversification, to rationalize use of fertilizers and pesticides, Integration required with animal husbandry, agro forestry, Seed security and sovereignty, Organic farming requires more attention in terms market promotion, targeted subsidy/ incentives, local product-PDS/market link etc; define the transition road map and Incentivization of carbon-neutral or net-carbon-absorbing farming practices
Coast and Disaster: Common and vulnerable community of Odisha coast viz. farmers, fishers and salt workers are conspicuously absent in the action plan. They seem to have fallen on fault lines between sectoral strategies. The action plan doesn’t look at the political dimensions, existing legal frameworks and governance. There is a need to develop an appropriate legal (land administration) framework to tackle eventual coastal displacement and resettlement. Assessment and demonstration of tools and technology to tackle coastal erosion viz. geotube.
More focus required on disaster adaptation/mitigation than on existing focus on disaster management. Drought-related vulnerabilities and action points required to be provided clrear attention. When erosion in Satbhaya is attributed to construction of port at Paradeep, GOO need to spell out the need of so many (12) ports and their impact on coastal habitations. With imminent salinization of coastal drinking water there will be heavy impact on pregnancy as already accepted by IPCC, which is required to be addressed by CCAP
Apart from these, Government need to do more on, Flood adaptive and drought tolerant crops, cropping systems and adaptive food-security mechanisms – both traditional and improvised require prioritized policy, research and action support. Need to spell out strategy on conservation and governance of coastal wetlands vis-à-vis their role in flood moderation, local livelihoods and food security. The already visible livelihoods loss of salt workers, traditional fishermen (along coast and Chilika) requires addressing. The conflicts between Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and Marine Fishing Regulation Act requires to be addressed
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