'Odisha water project could prove disastrous in future'

Such initiatives could prove disastrous in future: 'Waterman of India' Rajendra Singh on Odisha project

Singh alleged that the government was turning a blind eye to the people's demand for water

Rajendra Singh. Credit: PTI File Photo

Renowned water conservationist Rajendra Singh has expressed solidarity with agitators protesting a water project in Odisha, saying such initiatives could "prove disastrous in future".

Singh, dubbed the 'waterman of India', visited the banks of Kharasrota in Kendrapara's Rajkanika block on Tuesday and opposed the district administration's move to divert river water for piped supply to neighbouring Bhadrak.

Expressing solidarity with a movement spearheaded by local outfit Kharasrota Bachao Sangram Samiti, he said at a public meeting in Achutapur, "Such projects could prove disastrous in future."

Rajkanika has been on the boil over the demand to scrap the Rs 892-crore project to draw water from Kharasrota, a tributary of Brahmani River, for piped supply to Bhadrak.

Locals fear that the diversion would lead to the depletion of water levels in Kharasrota, causing a severe shortage of water for agrarian requirements in the region, where people are entirely dependent on farming for livelihood.

Singh alleged that the government was turning a blind eye to the people's demand for water, while it was facilitating the mega industries to guzzle more water and generate pollution.

"The people of the neighbouring district need water. But diverting water from the Kharasrota to those areas is not the solution. The natural flow of the rivers should be protected," Singh said.

He underlined that diversion of water from an already-deficient river basin would lead to the ingress of seawater upstream and harm the district's agricultural activities.

"The riverside villagers will become more vulnerable to saline intrusion due to the diversion of sweet water from the river for this mega drinking water project," Singh said.

Debendra Sharma, the former Congress MLA of Aul, suggested that it would have been better if the state government built an in-stream barrage over the Kharasrota river and supplied water to Bhadrak.

"People in Bhadrak have the right to access clean drinking water. But that should not be at the cost of the larger interest of people living in Kendrapara," Sharma said.

Congress leaders Sudrashan Das, Dharanidhar Nayak and former Aul legislator Dolagibinda Nayak, and advocate Khirod Rout were among others who addressed the meeting.

There have been agitations across Kendrapara district over the past fortnight. Section 144 of CrPC has been clamped in Rajkanika's three gram panchayats till October 8 to douse the simmering protest.

The proposed project aims to provide safe drinking water to villages in Bhadrak district, where the groundwater table is heavily saline. The project requires 105 million litres of water per day and less than four per cent of the water inflow of the river will be diverted for the mega project, officials had said.

Kendrapara Sub-collector Niranjan Nehera had dismissed the apprehension expressed by people in Rajkanika as "unfounded".

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