Monday, June 8, 2015

Odisha, Centre cross swords on river inter-linking issue

Odisha Times, June 8, 2015
 With the Centre rigid with its proposal for interlinking of river Mahanadi with river Godavari despite Odisha government’s objections, the Centre and the Odisha government are heading for a face-off.
Even more disturbing is the Centre’s decision to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to expedite the project. What has surprised the Odisha government is the Centre’s haste for the project. The state government apart from voicing strong objections to the move has put forth several questions on it, sources close to the development revealed.
The Centre has simply made a presentation of the proposal for interlinking of rivers before the Chief Minister said Pradip Kumar Jena principal secretary Water Resources department adding neither has the Central government made any formal proposal for the project nor has the state government given its consent for the same. Rather the state government has opposed it and has sought clarifications from the Central government on it, he said.
Sources in the Water Resources department said the Centre has put forth two alternative proposals before the state government.
According to the first proposal two barrages will be constructed over the river Mahanadi at Manibhadra and Barmul and water will be stored in two areas Raula and Bag. With this project will submerge 23, 349 hectares of land. While at least 828 km length of canals will be dug up as part of the project 2, 31, 093 hectares of land will be irrigated and 849.3 MW of electricity will be generated.
The second alternative proposal proposes for construction of a barrage at Barmul and water will be stored at five places Bag, Salki, Raula, Khadago and Udanti. With this project will submerge 15,528 hectares of land. While at least 842 km of canals will be dug up as part of the project, 2, 31,093 hectares of land will be irrigated and 1039 MW of electricity generated.
However, both the proposals do not contain any facts on the quantum of forest land to be submerged due to the projects.
For flood control and containing of water scarcity the Central government has proposed for interlinking of Barmul-Rushikulya, Ib –Brahmani, construction of barrage on Nagavali-Rushikulya-Vamsadhara and construction of dam Anga, Ib and Upper Lanth.
Nonetheless, the state government has opposed the move and  has argued that river Mahanadi as such doesn’t have excess water.
The state government has said that in case of the project coming up at Barmul in Nayagarh district 12 villages will be submerged, 1000 hectares will be submerged in Raula area in Kalahandi district and on barrage or dam being constructed at Udanti in Nuapada district eight villages will be submerged. At least 1541 hectares of land will be submerged.
Similarly, 11 villages will be also submerged in Salko area in Boudh district.
Besides, for the Khadago project in Kandhamal district 19 villages, 32 villages for the Anga project in Bargarh  district , 26 villages for Ib project in Sundargarh district and 2 villages for the Upper Lanth project in Balangir district will be submerged.
It will be next to impossible to go for interlinking of rivers without resolving these issues.
The state government has said that the project should be gainful to those who will be displaced for the project. The interlinking canals should not affect any human habitation. The state government has told the Central government that it is prepared to consider the proposal provided cent percent financial assistance is provided for all the projects and are accorded national project status.
Though the Centre is yet to react on the stand of the state government, sources close to the development revealed that it is giving  top most priority to the interlinking of Mahanadi with Godavari in its list of things.

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