ROURKELA: Months ahead of the peak summer season, water in river Koel has already started drying up. At many places, water level of the river has dropped drastically. The river, originating in Ranchi district of Jharkhand, enters Sundargarh near Jareikela and flows through Bisra, Nuagaon and Kuanrmunda blocks and RIT limits in Sundargarh district before meeting river Sankh at Vedvyas here to form river Brahmani. Apparently, drop in water level of the river had led to drinking water crisis in Rourkela Industrial Township (RIT) of Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) in April this year.
In the wake of the crisis, the RSP had taken a number of measures, including excavation of the river bed, to accumulate more water near its intake well, digging of a few dug wells and tube wells and making provisions to ensure supply of water to the Hilltop reservoir of RSP at Sector-20 from other sources. However, neither the Sundargarh administration nor the RSP authorities are now aware of the reason behind decreasing water holding capacity of river Koel for the last one month.
General secretary of Rourkela Ispat Karkhana Karmachari Sangh (RIKKS), the BMS-affiliated recognised trade union of RSP, HS Bal said work would start soon with an investment of `30 crore and will be completed before the next summer to ensure supply of water from Brahmani Water Works, Sector-8, to the Hilltop reservoir. He said the Sector-8 facility gets water from the river Brahmani through Tarkera pump house of RSP which gets water from RSP’s Mandira dam at Laing.
However, it remains to be seen if the RSP initiatives will suffice in meeting the water needs during peak summer, when RIT requires 15.5 million gallons per day (MGD). The water is supplied through 500 km of water supply lines catering to 24,500 staff quarters and 5,675 shops spread over 19 sectors. The RSP’s piped water supply does not cover a vast slum population.
Meanwhile, almost 40 months after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid foundation for a low-height-barrage-cum-bridge project at Jhirpani on river Koel for meeting drinking water and irrigation requirements, the project is yet to start. Executive Engineer of Irrigation division, A K Biswal, said over a year back, the original project was redesigned into pick-up weir, but it is now getting redesigned as a barrage project with primary aim of drinking water storage. Drastic fall in water level of Koel river is also set to hamper assured irrigation on 1,660 hectares in the district.