BERHAMPUR: Even as the ruling BJD has made Mahanadi water dispute a major issue during ensuing panchayat elections and is desperately trying to woo the people by describing the river as the lifeline of Odisha following construction of barrages by Chhattisgarh Government, the issue of Neredi barrage being constructed on Bansadhara river has been pushed to the backburner.
Like Mahanadi, Bansadhara is the lifeline of South Odisha and the barrage would affect people directly dependent on it, said sources.Even as the hearing on Odisha Government’s plea is pending in the Supreme Court for years, the Andhra Pradesh Government has gone ahead and resumed construction of the barrages last month. On the other hand, the BJD Government has spent over `2.5 crore during the last four months towards payment of fee of counsels and transportation of officials to Delhi for discussion over the matter. But there has been no positive result as yet.
Objections were raised by Odisha in Supreme Court as the barrage, being built on Bansadhara river at Katraguda village about 16 kms from Gunupur town in Rayagada district, will submerge 1,326 acres of Odisha land.
The apex court directed for formation of a tribunal and Bansadhara Water Dispute Tribunal took shape in 2010. In an interim order in 2013, the tribunal allowed AP to go ahead, but the neighbouring State Government stopped work and revived it only last month.
While the Odisha Government was unaware about the revival of construction work, media highlighted the issue and soon irrigation higherups of the State sent its engineers to Paralakhemundi to take stock of the situation.
The engineers failed to visit the construction site in its first attempt due to protest by AP staff. After 10 days, the engineers visited the site and submitted a report confirming the construction. Instead of taking any action, the Irrigation department sent another team comprising experts who also submitted a similar report.
Later, Chief Engineer in the department Rabindra Kumar Panda was directed to visit the site on October 19. Panda, who also happens to be the basin manager of Rushikulya-Bansadhara-Nagabali, visited the disputed sites along with other engineers. The team toured the sites between Gotta Barrage and Hiramandalam reservoir, Parapuram, Neredi barrage side and Katragada as the barrage and canals would connect Hiramandalam reservoir via Singidi and Parapuram.
In his report, Panda stated that about 1.5 km downstream of Katragada, a batching plant for construction of different structures of canals was in progress and 60-70 workers were engaged. The project buildings, which were abandoned, are under renovation and a bridge over canal near Balaru village is in progress.
Earth work for Parapuram dam and Hiramandalam reservoir were in progress. As per the report, all gates of Gotta barrage and sluice gates have been closed to store water flowing in the canals. Andhra officials engaged in construction work said, a target has been set to supply water from Hiramandalam reservoir to the land in Andhra by June 2018.