Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 3:
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi protesting against the draft notification on River Regulation Zone (RRZ) issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change.
“I would like to bring to your kind notice the draft Notification on River Regulation Zone issued by Government of India in the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Our state has already submitted its concern to the Ministry vide letter No.6532/F&E dated 08.04.2016,” wrote Patnaik in his letter to the Prime Minister.
Notably, the draft notification seeks to declare river stretches and floodplain zones as river conservation zones and prohibit/regulate a large number of activities in these zones. Three zones along the river banks have been identified namely; Prohibited Activities Zone (RCZ-PA), Restricted Activities Zone (RCZ-RAI) and Regulated Activities Zone (RCZ-RAII).
Essential developmental activities like construction of jetties, repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, removal of sand from the river bed, navigational facilities, erosion control measures, withdrawal of groundwater etc., construction of residential/institutional/ commercial buildings for schools, dispensaries, recreational facilities etc. are proposed to be governed under the new notification.
Pointing out that in a federal structure, responsibilities and powers of the Centre and the state in the Union list and state list have been defined where water resources comes under the state subject Patnaik cautioned: “This notification of the Central government will limit and restrict the powers of the state and will create confusion since many of the aforesaid activities come under the purview of state subjects. It appears that the proposed notification is non-implementable in its present form and will have severe anti-developmental consequences for the state of Odisha.”
In fitness of things, these activities which are part of the state list should not be included in a notification under the Environment (Protection) act, 1986, the Chief Minister underlined.
The Chief Minister further pointed out that the state of Odisha has a network of rivers covering about 1,2 ,000 km. Approximately 4.5 to 5.0 km on both sides of the rivers and floodplains are proposed to be covered under the River conservation zone under the Environment (Protection) Act. Therefore, approximately 108,000 sq km out of the state’s total area of about 156,000 sq km will be affected by the proposed notification. Such a notification will prevent the progress of developmental activities in the state, he added.
Patnaik said: “In view of the above, I request you not to be in haste in implementing the proposed notification and urge upon you to ask Ministry of Environment & Forests & Climate Change to have a detailed discussion with all states covering all aspects of the proposed notification.”
On the other hand, Patnaik suggested that in order to address the flood problems in the country, a set of guidelines may be issued by Government of India, if required, which could be considered for adoption by the respective state governments based on their local requirements.