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Odisha turns into burning chamber, historic Cuttack city 'loses' 90% of green cover

By Sudhansu R Das* 

The April month has not ended yet. And the effect of the spring season is no longer felt. The state of Odisha is boiling with terrible summer heat which has crossed 40 degree celsius in more than 25 towns and the mercury is hovering around 44 degree in southern Odisha. Schools were closed between 12 to 16 April due to unbearable heat. The reported incidents of acute drinking water shortage and brain strokes are pouring in. The days ahead will be worse. 
The summer heat has made the state into a frying pan; this alarming situation was predicted repeatedly by the experts long before. Aggressive concretization of the state, errand real estate growth on forest and agriculture land, the recent forest fire in vast areas, deforestation, destruction of rivers and water bodies etc has let the mercury scale new heights. It has made life difficult, erodes productivity hours, made people sick and worried. 
The state will lose private investment and employment opportunities; it will lose its young brains who will migrate to cooler states. The state has failed to maintain balance with nature while wedding to an infrastructure based developed vision.
The government should take urgent steps to de-concretize the state as it has made the state hotter and unlivable. One will find concrete structures popping up in tourist places, in pilgrim centers and in naturally beautiful places; it spoils the tourism prospect also. 
 A recent study estimating the human and economic costs of climate change and weather shocks in India, conducted by the Climate Impact Lab in collaboration with the Tata Centre for Development at Chicago estimated Odisha may witness 42,334 more deaths every year due to extreme heat by 2100. It will be almost five times more than the total deaths the state records due to cardiac arrest every year. 
The spike in average summer temperature and number of extremely hot days has an impact on mortality, the study said. The number of extremely hot days in Odisha has been projected to increase by 30 times from 1.62 in 2010 to 48.05 by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at current rates till the end of the century, the report revealed. 
Had the state government protected its forest, trees, water bodies and crop diversity such a hot summer would not have appeared in the state. In fact, summer was not so cruel 20 years back; there was always a cool breeze from the sea, from the rivers and the forest.
"Odisha has a history of experiencing extreme heat related fatalities. In 1998, as many as 2,042 people had died due to excessive heat waves," reportedly said Pradeep Kumar Nayak, the chief general manager, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority. As per the study, between 2010 and 2018, over 6,100 people have died in the country due to heat waves, with Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal together reporting more than 90 per cent of the total deaths.
The leaders and planners in the state should understand the growth and development can be achieved by maintaining a balance with nature. Odisha has a vibrant natural sector economy which can thrive if the state protects its forest, trees, agriculture field, open space and water bodies. You can’t afford to pour concrete and steel everywhere; it will generate heat, damage the natural surroundings and cause suffering to people.
Mahanadi, the lifeline of Odisha has lost its stream in many places and so also the other rivers and water bodies. The save Mahanadi movement in Odisha should not be politicized; it should yield results. Political leaders cutting across the party lines should work to save the Mahanadi, other rivers and water bodies; the concretization of Odisha should stop for inclusive growth and prosperity. 
Statements on wars, allegations and counter allegations among political leaders without much ground work have aggravated people’s sufferings; strong and visionary leaders should emerge to reweave the natural balance. There are abundant employment opportunities in the natural sectors. 
An innocent tribal artisan of Odisha can add high value worth a lakh to ordinary metal, cloth, wood and tree fibers. He deserves the service of honest officials and a transparent marketing network to improve his quality of life. The crop diversity, tourist places, heritage places, pilgrim tourism, handicraft sector, industries and services sector can make the state rich if natural balance is maintained.
Recently, a violent forest fire has decimated Odisha forest cover and the state should identify the real culprits behind the forest fire instead of nabbing a villager, a poacher or a farmer. Forest officers should be trained and motivated to save forest; there should be a monitoring team to keep watch on forest cover and wildlife which will increase foreign tourist flow. 
Had the state government protected its forests, trees, water bodies and crop diversity such a hot summer would not have appeared
Forest cover will reduce the summer heat, save life, livelihood and prevent migration of tribal to cities for menial jobs; the majority of the tribal end up in urban slums. Let the educated babus learn from the tribal how to harness the benefits from nature; the income generated from nature harnessing is sufficient to meet the need but not the greed.
The state should treat the root cause of summer heat. Every water body in the state should have been geotagged and brought into life with people’s participation. The government expenditure on reviving the water bodies should have been open to social audit; people can see how the money was spent in reviving the water bodies. 
There should have been massive plantations in the open space both in cities and villages; and on both sides of the national highways and state roads. It is not happening around the state; so the state is getting hotter day by day.
There are things which are worse than heat waves. For example, the historic Cuttack city has lost 90% of its green cover and the residents here are just trying to survive in the summer months. The garbage processing micro plants which are established in thickly populated residential areas in the city have worsened the situation. Heat plus bad smell from the micro processing garbage plants, broken roads and open drains have made the city unlivable. 
Recently, one big garbage processing unit has been established adjacent to the famous Raghunathjew Ram Mandir amid a thickly populated residential area. The plant emits a bad smell and pollutes the air. Lungs problems and intestine infection have been reported by the local residents. Interestingly the plant is located on a place which was once the Pramod Udyan of the Lord Raghunathjew temple. It was the centre of sports and culture; the garden was an example of rich biodiversity with around 100 varieties of rare plant species. 
Former Prime Minister, late Shri Atal Bihari Bjapayee had visited the Pramod Udyan a number of times. The RSS chief, Guruji Golwalkar had also addressed a public meeting in Pramod Udyan in the 60s. Today the place is rotting. Helpless residents protested and gave representations to the Municipality to remove the plant. But, nothing has happened.  
The state should immediately shift the garbage processing plant and revive the place into a bio diversity park. The state government should plant more trees, protect open space and water bodies across the state before the summer heat kills more people.


Unknown said…
True, Govt of Odisha should initiate a scheme to encourage citizens to plant ☘️ in all vacant lands and also provide some grants to NGO'S to work on greenhouse emissions.


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