Odisha | July 2017
The NITI Aayog recently came out with the draft National Energy Policy and put it on their website on June 27, 2017. The last date for public comments was given as July 14. This very short time given for a large and yet not well connected nation like India, again shows the government’s total apathy in letting any public discourse develop on major policy issues, doing token “consultations”, and push through major policy changes. On our and many other CSOs request, the deadline for comments & suggestions was extended by 10 days, to July 24, 2017.
Beyond Copenhagen collective and PAIRVI took the initiative to reach out to a large no of CSOs and other interested groups, with the details of this important national policy, in an effort to generate awareness, discussion, debates – which would result in critiques, comments and suggestions. After circulating the draft NEP to a large no of groups all over the country with this request, a consultative meeting was organized in Delhi on July 12 (a brief report is in this issue). Some 15 groups, including large national networks - participated in this from 4-5 states. Our efforts also led to organizing state level consultations in Madhya Pradesh (held at Jabalpur - report in this issue) and Odisha, held in Bhubaneswar, both on the 22nd of July. This is a very brief report of the Odisha consultation.
The meeting was organized at the conference room of the Lohia Academy, and was co-organized by Beyond Copenhagen, PAIRVI, Lok Shakti Abhiyan-Odisha and National Alliance of People’s Movement-Odisha. The ex-finance minister of Odisha, Shri Panchanan Kanungo presided over the meeting, while Shri Prafulla Samantara – globally known environment and rights activist moderated the discussion. About 40 people from different walks of life participated, including senior representatives from most political parties, like Congress, BJD, CPI-M, CPI and AAP. There were several academics, representatives from institutions and a few retired citizens.
After introduction of the subject by Sri Prafulla Samantara, a presentation on the salient points, areas covered and different projections done in the draft NEP, was made by Soumya Dutta of BCPH. There were animated discussions on several aspects, including the undemocratic nature of the policy making exercises. The meeting unanimously raised a few points –
1. The time given for comments /suggestions is highly inadequate, and must be extended. They decided to write to NITI Aayog about this.
2. The most dangerous proposal in the draft NEP was identified as the massive increase in the coal and coal power capacity, even in 2040. The house felt this should be strongly protested against, looking at the massive damages that coal mining and coal power plants are doing to Odisha’s water sources, its farming and livelihoods.
3. They felt that, Odisha having been identified as having the second largest coal deposits in India by state, a much increased dependence on coal will largely destroy many of the forests and green areas in the state, and this must be protested.
4. Another concern brought out by some journalists and senior citizens was that of high consumer prices for electricity. They felt that common citizens are not so bothered by what is happening to the ecosystem, but once their purse is pinched, they get up and respond. The increasing cost of coal power is contributing to this, they felt, and suggested reversal.
5. The fact that the draft NEP do not focus on where the huge increased finances will come from for the massively expanded energy infrastructure, and what would be its impacts on the economy, was found to be a big gap area in the policy draft.
Mr Kanungo, the ex-minister in the BJD cabinet, who presided over, concluded in his statement highlighting the need for a proper evaluation of Odisha’s energy needs, before planning big increases. He also pointed out to the reality of continuously falling solar PV prices, vis-à-vis coal and other conventional sources, and asked for a policy focused much more on renewable energies.