“Climate refugees of Odisha need proper rehabilitation”

Bhubaneswar:  The climate refugees of Odisha need proper rehabilitation, urges Ranjan Panda, popularly known as the Water Man of Odisha to the Chief Minister.

Thousands of villagers in Odisha’s coasts are gradually being pushed back by an inundating sea because of climate change and related challenges, observed during a recent study-cum-exposure trip.

The trip was organised by the Water Initiatives, Odisha (WIO), a forum of civil society organisations and experts that works for the conservation of water and environment and advocacy on climate change issues. Members of WIO had been to Udayakani and Tandahara villages in Puri district, and Satabhaya & Bagapatia villages in Kendrapada district for this study.

Considering the fact that near about one third of Odisha’s coastline is already vulnerable to sea ingress due to climate change, Ranjan Panda, convenor of WIO, who is also popularly known as Water Man of Odisha, has apprised the Chief Minister of the situation through a letter and urged the government to initiate necessary steps to address the issues of the thousands of climate refugees of the state.

According to the letter the people of Udayakani village under Sisuo Panchayat, Astaranga block of Puri district have been suffering because of the rapidly invading sea. This village is going to take a watery grave in a few years due rapid sea incursion. The invading sea has forced the villagers to relocate from the village thrice since 1999 Super Cyclone when the entire village went into the sea forcing people to move to their farmlands.

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During Phailin in 2014, they had to shift inland again after the village got sandcast. While they had been under tremendous stress after losing their homestead and farmlands, the recent cyclone Fani worsened their condition further by making their remaining land and water sources more saline.

Same is the situation of neighbouring Tandahara village that is close to Udayakani even though the sea has not yet engulfed the village as much as it has the other village, Panda mentioned in the letter.

The Water Man in his letter, also apprised the CM of the current state of affairs of Bagapatia rehabilitation colony in Kendrapada district where the government has relocated the climate refugees of Satabhaya – the seven villages which have already been engulfed by the sea during the last few decades. While the amount of support given for house building is too little considering the low-lying swampy area they have been allotted, they are provided with no livelihood opportunity.

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