Talk to states before regulating river zones, Odisha urges Centre

Bhubaneswar: Protesting the draft notification on River Regulation Zone, the Odisha government has urged the Centre to have a thorough deliberation with the states in this regard before its implementation.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said 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 – namely Prohibited Activities Zone (RCZ-PA), Restricted Activities Zone (RCZ-RAl) and Regulated Activities Zone (RCZ-RAII) – along the river banks have been identified.

As per the draft, essential development activities like construction of jetties, repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, removal of sand from 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.

Since Odisha has a network of rivers covering about 12,000 kms, approximately 4.5 to 5 km on either side of the rivers and floodplains are proposed to be covered under the River conservation zone under the Environment (Protection) Act, Patnaik said.

“Taking this into consideration, 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, which will prevent progress of developmental activities in the state,” he noted.

The chief minister further observed that the responsibilities and powers of the Centre and the State in the Union List and State List have been clearly defined in a federal structure. Under this division, water resources is a state subject, he pointed out.

“It appears that the proposed notification is non-implementable in its present form and will have severe anti-developmental consequences for Odisha,” Patnaik said adding that the state government has submitted its concerns to the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF & CC) on April 8 this year.

He requested the Prime Minister to direct the MoEF & CC to have a detailed discussion with all the states covering all aspects of the proposed notification.

Besides, he also urged the Prime Minister to issue a set of guidelines to address the flood problems in the country, which can be considered for adoption by the respective state governments based on their local requirements.