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Increasing number of 'concrete' projects: Gruelling heat awaits Odisha this summer

By Sudhansu R Das 

Odisha, a state with long sea coast, rivers, lakes, forest and hills, has lost much of its natural beauty. The state has stuffed nature with a huge quantity of concrete and steel for building concrete projects. Aggressive mining activities, quarrying, sand mining, real estate growth and deforestation has converted Odisha into a heat chamber; the gruelling heat of summer lasts for more than five months in a year which is an unusual phenomena. 
The mercury in the capital city Bhubaneswar reached 37 degree and crossed 35 degree in 15 urban centers of Odisha in the winter month of February; the actual summer months will be too cruel for the people of Odisha.
The reason for the mercury rise is mainly due to the state economic planners, who do not understand the importance of sustainable economic development. Their economic growth plan tears apart the economic fabric of the state which has been enshrined in nature for several centuries.  Heat waves, flood, cyclone and drought are man made natural calamities which the economic planners are too stubborn to accept.  
The state needs good roads, flyovers, rail network, bridges, industries and hotels along with forest, rivers, lakes, ponds and open space for human survival. Over-flooding the state with needless concrete projects will bring pain and misery to people. What is the use of a flyover,  six  lane roads and bridges if the summer heat threatens life and the natural calamities destroy livelihood very often?
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has observed that the state has recorded a significant increase in the number of heat wave days this summer of 2023. By June 2023, at least 20 heat wave days were recorded and it was nearly double the state’s average.  A recent study conducted by the Tata Centre for Development (TCD) and the Climate Impact Lab revealed, due to climate change, annually 42,334 people may die in Odisha by 2100 AD because of excessive heat waves. 
Climate researchers say, the number of hot days in Odisha will increase by 30 times from mere 1.62 days in 2010 to 48.05 days by 2100 AD.  A study on stroke incidence and mortality associated with it in five districts of India, taken up by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for a two year period during 2018 and 2019, found that 187 people in every one lakh population suffer strokes in Cuttack, Odisha, every year, which is the highest in India.
The state economic planners should understand the simple fact that human survival and inclusive growth opportunities are more important than too many concrete and steel structures. The state government should wake up to weed out unnecessary projects.  The purpose of the metro rail in Hyderabad was to reduce traffic on road but the purpose has been defeated as the traffic density in Hyderabad has increased many folds in the last eight years. The number of cars has increased by nearly 5 lakh between 2017 and 2023. At present, the city has 14.1 lakh registered cars and every month, Hyderabad adds 25000 new vehicles.  
The economic planners of Odisha should learn from the metro experiment in Hyderabad and stop implementing metro rail projects in Bhubaneswar. Like Hyderabad, the metro rail project will destroy greenery, parks and heritage sites in Bhubaneswar. Instead of metro projects the state should introduce reliable bus service, battery operated auto rickshaws, cycle tracks and more pedestrian paths; this will save the city from becoming a terrible urban mess.
There is absolutely no need to demolish the historic Barabati stadium in Cuttack and rebuild it.  The stadium was one of the best grounds in the world which had earned the praise of West Indies’ cricket captain, Clive Lloyad. Destroying and rebuilding it will be an enormous waste.  The state has recently dedicated 41 cricket stadiums to 30 districts of the state when no player of the state represents the India team. 
Building of stadiums should be demand driven; when people don't have jobs and migrate to outside states in large numbers, they don't need stadiums everywhere. Cricket stadiums can be built in a few cities only on the basis of actual demand. 
Government's growth plan tears apart economic fabric of Odisha which has been enshrined in nature for centuries
The state has also built 90 indoor stadiums in remote districts also where people can’t afford to pay stadium fees and buy sports equipment.  Those stadiums will be underutilized for many years and its maintenance cost will be an additional burden on the state. There is too much supply of projects vis-a-vis demand which will ruin the state’s economy. The debt  burden of the state in 2023-24 will be Rs 1,12,882 crores which is estimated to reach Rs 2,09,299 crore in 2026-27 as per the state government’s status paper. The state government should induct sensible economic planners to induct economic sense in the development initiatives.  
The state needs to create more public playgrounds with local residents’ cooperation; public playgrounds are key to developing sports talents. There is no need to spend money, pour concrete and steel in it.  The state can demarcate open space for public playgrounds and allow the local residents to convert it into playgrounds with green native trees all around.  Since the highest number of brain strokes among the cities happen in Cuttack, it is very essential to create more public playgrounds in the district. Some public playgrounds in Cuttack are occupied by miscreants and vested interests; those grounds should be used for public good. 
The state should undertake massive native tree plantation on roadsides and in public places which will give relief to people from the summer heat. The water bodies in the state should be revived and kept as natural as possible without any concrete structures inside. There is a mad rush for building concrete projects in the state which has already distorted the natural beauty of tourist and pilgrim places; the projects should be made after examining the actual need thoroughly. Planners who have made needless concrete projects in the state should be made accountable for the loss and they should be punished.  
The massacre of elephants and tigers in the state as reported in the daily newspapers of Odisha should be stopped as it adversely affects the wildlife tourism potential in the state. Forest cover can only save the people of Odisha from the grueling summer heat which takes human lives every year. The state should learn to harness the economic potential of the forest which is far more profitable than any industrial product. 
The demand for honey is mind boggling in the international market; the price of pure honey varies from Rs 800 to Rs 2000 per kg. There are hundreds of minor forest products which can survive with the survival of the forest. It is high time for the Odisha government to embrace the natural sector economy. It will save the people of Odisha from the summer heat and from the natural calamities.

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