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Upliftment of environmental refugees needs attention in global warming
By   Published on: 27-Oct-2011 12:12:21
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The 1978 batch Indian Forest Service officer, Bhagirathi Behera, who is also the Director-cum-Special Secretary to Forest and Environment Department, Govt. of Orissa, dreams to uplift environmental refugees.

Behera served on various capacities in the Forest and Environment Department such as DFO Territorial and Working Plan and Conservator of Forest, Kenduleaf and Development and Director (Operation), OFDC.

In Forestry, he has written several papers on Soil Conservation and Bioactivity of Earthworms in Forest Soil in National and International Journals. He has been awarded with "Rajib Gandhi Sadvawana" award - 2005 for his outstanding activities and public motivation in medicinal plant cultivation.

In an exclusive interview with's Anurjay Dhal, in Bhubaneswar, the soft-spoken IFS officer revealed the various steps being taken by the Govt to check pollution in the State. He also shared few of his experience and excitement in Forest Service.

Here are the excerpts of the interview. You have a long successful career as an environmentalist. What made you to take IFS as career?

Bhagirathi:I hailed from a remote village in the vicinity of Similipal Tiger Reserve of Orissa's Mayurbhanj district. Right from my childhood, I have affinity for plants and wild lives. I intended to fulfil my dream into a reality by accepting IFS as a career. It was not just a job but it was a mission for me. There were reports of sea erosion in coastal areas of Orissa. Is it so grave? What do you want to say on this issue?

Bhagirathi: Orissa has a 480km. long coast line. It is observed that in last few years coast line is being eroded due to unprecedented high tidal waves in sea at different stretches of the state. The behaviour of the sea has become erratic during high tide. Department has requested the Integrated Coastal Marine Area Management (ICMAM) project directorate to study the unusual behaviour at Puri and Gopalpur sea coast.

In this connection, ICMAM Project Directorate has taken up a project on shore line management for Gopalpur Coast to analyze the erosion problem and suggest possible solution to the state authorities.

Besides, Institute for Ocean Management of Anna University, Chennai has been preparing an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) plan of Puri-Konark Coastal stretches. Further, ICZM Projects for Chilika-Gopalpur and Paradip-Dhamra coastal stretches have been initiated under World Bank funding.

Above all, action has been initiated at highest level for a coordinated effort by the Water Resource Department and Works Department besides the Environment Department to tackle this problem of protection of the coastal areas. What steps are being taken by Govt to check pollution in the State?

Bhagirathi: With regard to industrial pollution, abatement and control, there has been a significant improvement in the compliance status by the industries through stricter surveillance, monitoring & enforcement by the State Pollution Control Board and Environment Department. Forest and Environment has stipulated guidelines for establishment of stone crushers and brick Kilns. Steps have also been initiated to bring out a policy for establishment of sponge iron plants, restriction on use of polythene, control of noise pollution in the State. Orissa is on the path of the massive industrialization, what steps have you taken for environmental protection in the State?

Bhagirathi: As desire by the Government , State Pollution Control Board has initiated action for preparing a regional environment management plan for Angul-Talcher-Meramundali area. Similar study has also been proposed for Joda-Barbil area. Board has granted consent to establish and consent to operate to the industrial units which abide by the stipulated norms.

To incorporate views of the public, public hearings have been conducted for major industrial/mining/ development projects which require environment clearance. Under the environmental clearance notification 2006; steps have been taken to constitute State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) for decentralizing the environmental clearance process. What about the "Centre for Environmental Studies"? Can you please throw some light on it?

Bhagirathi: As a registered society under administrative control of the Forest and Environment Department, Centre for Environmental Studies (CES) undertakes activities to promote environmental awareness in the state.

CES is the Regional Resource Agency for the National Environment Awareness Campaign (NEAC) and the Nodal Agency for the National Green Corps (NGC) programmes of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Govt. of India. It is also an ENVIS Centre under the ENVIS Programme of the MoEF.

The Centre also maintains a website on various aspects of State of Environment in Orissa. It has been selected by the MoEF to prepare Indian State Level Basic Environmental Information Database (ISBEID) in association with National Informatics Centre, New Delhi. In addition to this, the Centre publishes quarterly newsletter on different environmental issues of Orissa to fulfil the Objectives of ENVIS Centre. Do you think, Orissa has got 100% success in plantation in the State?

Bhagirathi:: No, as you know success depends upon public awareness and motivation. 100% success in plantation can be achieved only by public participation although the effect of nature and climate can not be ignored. When did you get interested in ecological conservation?

Bhagirathi: I was a student in Life Science at Sambalpur University from 1972-1975. During that period, I had the opportunity to closely observe the complex web of life in an ecosystem.

Further, conservation of living resources -Plants, Animals, Microorganisms and non-living elements of environment on which they depend- was crucial for development. Habitat alteration and species extinction were major threats to our planet. Realizing the importance of these issues, I was interested in ecological conservation. In your long career you might have seen many ups and downs. Can you tell us what keeps you so positive?

Bhagirathi: I have a determination to see all my plans into action. Hence, I have never been pessimistic in my attitude. I am hopeful regarding a better future and better environment in the coming years. Who have inspired you the most?

Bhagirathi:During my school days when I was reading history, out of many benevolent works done by Samrat Ashok - the Great, the tree plantings mostly avenue plantation had caught my imagination. What is your future plan?

Bhagirathi:We all depend on one biosphere for sustaining our lives. Experience from the past 25 years of work, I learnt that law does not stand alone in protection & conservation of environment. It depends on the functioning of so many things. For protection of our mother earth, I intend to continue my efforts towards rehabilitation / upliftment of environmental refugees living in ecological problematic areas. Many thanks for spending some of your valuable time with us and wish all the best for your future endeavors.

Bhagirathi: Many thanks to you as well. I hope this English news website would be the voice for the people of Orissa.

Upliftment of environmental refugees needs attention in global warming

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