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An interview with Kalikesh Deo MP, Odisha

Kalikesh Singh Deo MP, who represents the Bolangir constituency of Odisha for the BJD, has been a key member of the Climate Parliament group of legislators in the Indian Parliament for the last four years, and has played a crucial role in several legislative campaigns on renewables, climate, and energy access. In this interview, he discusses his latest initiative: an ambitious roadmap for sustainable development of clean energy sources for all. Q: Tell us more about this initiative of yours.

I have recently initiated a detailed and comprehensive study for my constituency Bolangir in the state of Odisha on developing a low carbon development roadmap focussing on the energy challenges. We are looking how and what clean energy technologies can be deployed to bring about local area development in the constituency. The study has been supported by Climate Parliament and conducted by an expert organisation GSES India.

The objective here is to look at the synergies between low carbon technologies and on ground inclusive development; looking at the opportunities provided by the current global action around climate change mitigation; looking at how to address the financing and implementation challenges in on ground implementation of such technologies; and lastly looking at how a legislators can play an active role in the same.

The study has done an extensive baseline study and suggested a clean energy strategy for the district as a whole. In a second part, it has a done detailed assessment of the two villages adopted by my father and myself and suggested the immediate renewable energy interventions possible to address several basic challenges like lighting, water, cooking etc.

What do you mean by low-carbon development and its significance for a constituency?

Low carbon development broadly refers to a form of development which results in comparatively lower Green House Gas (GHG) emissions than the BAU (Business as Usual) scenario. As a legislator, however, I am trying to see how immediate but sustainable can be brought on the ground with low carbon technologies. It is about amalgamating twin objectives of development and climate change, both of which are crucial for developing countries like India. So we are talking of strategies like renewable energy, energy efficiency, low carbon agriculture practices, forest conservation, afforestation etc. India is the third largest carbon emitter in the world, if you don’t consider the EU. At the same time, the per capita carbon emission is almost one third of the global average. We are not only looking at a really low baseline but we are also looking the humongous potential of growth in India. This growth needs to be brought about in a low carbon mode and the beginning needs to happen at the ground level. The idea here is see the synergies between low carbon development strategies and faster and inclusive socio-economic development of India.

What immediate benefits can you see for your constituency?

In this particular initiative, we are trying to focus on low carbon energy interventions, essentially renewable energy, to address basic and aspirational development needs. We will be at the primary level try to address the basic energy needs like lighting, cooking and electrification. At the next level, we are thinking of the bigger initiatives in urban areas and commercial establishments. Such a development strategy for Balangir can lead to employment generation, improvement in productivity due to reliable energy access, improvement in access health and education, reduction in GHG emissions and reduction in indoor air pollution. So, low carbon development does not only have significance for my constituency but for every region in the country.

Here the simple example of clean cooks stoves and solar cookers can be cited. If these replace traditional cooking fuels like firewood, cow dung, etc. It will not only result in lower carbon emissions but will also improve the health of women involved in cooking.

How does it address the climate change issues?

Clean Energy technologies are really the ideal win-win solution for developing countries like India. They not only help in avoiding carbon emissions in turn helping in climate change mitigation but also helps in providing reliable energy access and security to the society at large.

You know the global climate change agreement is expected to be signed in Paris in December. India is expected to take a leadership role in having a successful agreement in place given its vulnerability to climate change. The Indian Government has already committed such high targets for clean energy technologies. It is important that these targets are backed by the right kind of financing mechanism and strong implementation framework. Implementation of decentralised energy technologies has been the major bottleneck which has millions away from modern energy services. Through these initiatives I believe we can really plug the financing and implementation gaps to a large extent. Legislators with a wide scale reach in their constituencies can play an important role in doing this and thus play a part in India’s climate change initiatives.

Odisha is a state that is most affected by natural disasters and climate change can lead to increased frequency of such events. Thus, we strongly believe that we should contribute to initiatives being taken to combat climate change.

What are the challenges related with climate change and low carbon development in your constituency?

The economy of the Balangir District is basically agrarian. Over 70% of the population depends on agriculture. The tourism industry of Balangir District also contributes to its economy. Both of these can be significantly impacted by climate change and this is a major challenge for us. In some areas of Balangir, the need for development is quite basic as well as urgent. There is an urgent for widescale household electrification, reliable but affordable energy supply for agricultural uses and for boosting commercial activity in the area.

In terms of bringing about a low carbon development, there will be several issues hindering the implementation of such a strategy. One major challenge would be obtaining the required finance, suitable entrepreneurs and viable business models for implementing low carbon projects. It would also be difficult to find local trained manpower for building, operating and maintaining such projects. Thus, educating and training local manpower in the field of climate change and clean energy would be essential.

Delay in receipt of government incentives and complex administrative procedures can further stall progress of these projects. Thus, suitable measures to address these would also need to be looked at. How do you plan to develop your constituency in climate sensitive manner that also benefit and empower people?

Clean energy access will be the key component of the sustainable/climate sensitive growth strategy that I envisage for my constituency. Given the resource availability, solar and biomass are going to be the two main technologies for the district.

  • I will promote the adoption technologies like Solar Home Lighting Systems and solar street lighting system.

  • Solar water pumping systems for micro irrigation, providing purified drinking water and facilitating water to community toilet will be promoted.

  • We will also try to promote the use of improved cook stoves.

  • We will also be looking roof top solar power plants for urban households and commercial establishments to ensure 24X7 power supply.

  • Apart from this the use of renewable energy can also be promoted for E-learning centres in schools, community centres and other common places in the villages.

  • Biomass cogeneration and energy efficient technologies will be promoted in local industries.

Attracting investors for large scale renewable energy power projects in the district of Bolangir will also be one of the strategies giving rise to employment. For this I will be pursuing with the administration for strengthening the requisite infrastructure and processes for such projects.

I also plan to put particular emphasis on the education and training of local people so that they can not only contribute in implementing these projects but are also able to sustain this low carbon growth in the long run. Their capability for self sustenance will be enhanced and in future, this will help in reducing their vulnerability to climate change and insufficient energy access.

What are the key challenges identified in your constituency?

Well, we are talking about one of the most backward areas in Odisha. The challenges therefore are immense. In this particular study we focussed on the energy challenges primarily. The baseline here is really low. Therefore, we are talking about basic challenges like household electrification (28.57% of households in Balangir district use electricity as source of light while 70% of households in Balangir district use Kerosene as source of light), inefficient cooking fuels, primitive methods of agriculture, etc. Over 70% of the population depends on agriculture. Yet agriculture consumes only 2% of the total energy consumption in the sector. Which essentially means most of the agriculture is non mechanised and irrigation is completely rain dependent. The district has no perennial irrigation system except Hirakud Command area which covers very negligible areas.This needs to change. The biggest challenge is how to bring in development in a fast, inclusive and a sustainable manner in an area like Bolangir. This would involve reliable energy supply to ensure that all facilities and welfare services reach to each and every constituent, attracting industries and commercial establishments by ensuring affordable power supply, giving a boost to overall development and overall welfare status of the area.

What are the key ideas and plans that you are working with in the near future in your constituency?

If you see the report there is sea of recommendations that are given addressing the different sectors in the district. At the outset, I would like to present this report and its findings to the Balangir district administration. Unless, the administration is made aware of the potential of clean energy and low carbon intervention, the strategies can never be sustainable. The idea will be to tap into the existing schemes extended by the State Government as well as the National Government and ensure the sound implementation of the same.

As an MP of the area, I would like to play the role of a catalyst in getting the proposed interventions implemented on the ground while closely monitoring the impacts of the same. In terms of the specific recommendations, I would like to take up a bouquet of recommendations spreading across different sectors. This will include the addressing basic necessities like household electrification; clean cooking fuel; clean drinking water supply; putting up demonstration projects in the Government sector and municipal sector; avoidance of diesel dependence in the commercial sector; and also look at attracting investments by the private sector for power generation or industrial power supply.

In terms of technology, I am keen to look at Solar micro grids and biogas systems in the rural areas, solar pump for irrigation and drinking water, Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) from municipal solid waste, Large solar power plants, bagasse based co-generation in the sugar mills, etc.

My immediate focus, however, is going to be provide affordable energy and energy based services through decentralised renewable energy options to my village adopted under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana Scheme.

You are focusing extensively on energy-related issues. Why?

Energy can be a catalyst for the overall development of my area in a sustainable manner. I am committed to provide energy access to those who have no access and power. However, the energy can open up the new possibilities for rural development, employment, agriculture, panchayats, education and for other important sectors. That is why, you will see that many of the proposals on the expert report deal not only with the electricity but with the overall development with the renewables. Such energy access and right can also be an answer to the issues of climate change and global warming at a time when there is so much of talk about them, but very little action at the local levels.

How are you planning to fund these initiatives?

Our first focus will be the two villages selected for the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana by my father who is an MP in Rajya Sabha and me. The study has calculated a total figure of Rs. 1.5 crores roughly required for financing preliminary level renewable energy interventions in the two villages of Sarasmal (97.90 lakh) and Budabahal (42.40 Lakh). Again, we will be taking a mixed approach for trying to fund these initiatives in the two villages. At outset, we will be trying to avail the National and State Government schemes for such technologies keeping with spirit of Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana initiative. We will also be looking at contributions through CSR, philanthropies and development agencies. Utilisation of MPLAD funds for such initiatives partially is also something we will be looking at. The objective will be to try and build financing model for the villagers instead of providing blanket/100% subsidised/free products so that the beneficiaries have a stake and the initiatives are sustainable. For the district level interventions, I will be in constant touch with the district and state administration for strategising and further action.

What will its significance be for other areas in your state?

The state as a whole needs bottom up approach for development with local area planning, sustainability, climate sensitivity and long term goals. Under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, MPLAD and others, we are doing area developmental works. However, as per my knowledge, this is for the first time, we have done a constituency-level study to plan low carbon development in a comprehensive, well-thought manner, keeping the immediate and long-term objectives in sight. Such constituency-development exercise and its successful implementation will have certain replication effects in other areas of the state where fellow MPs and MLAs are also making efforts to their area development. In any case, I am also planning to share my experience widely at the regional and national levels.

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