ROURKELA: Hundreds of farmers and daily labourers from 13 gram panchayats (GPs) of Nuagaon and adjacent Kuarmunda blocks of Sundargarh district are forced to carry bicycles on shoulders and wade through Deo river to reach Rourkela for livelihood everyday. With water level of the river rising due to monsoon rain, the labourers are now worried about their daily wages while the proposal to set up a high-level bridge over the river at Lahanda is hanging fire.
Sources said the Deo river flows from north to south equally dividing 20 panchayats of the agriculturally rich Nuagaon block before it meets Koel river at Mitkundri. With no alternative route, a vast rural population from 13 panchayats of Nuagaon and adjacent Kuarmunda blocks perennially faces communication woes and the situation aggravates during monsoon.
Former ZP member of Nuagaon Papu Sahu said last year, the Koel bridge at Mitkundri was inaugurated to link 10 panchayats of Nuagaon with Rourkela city. But the Deo river flowing just 500 metres from Mitkundri prevented villagers of rest 10 panchayats and three GPs of Kuarmunda block from the benefit of Koel bridge. The affected GPs include Ankurpali, Kanderkela, Menmena, Kokerama, Purunapani, Hathibari, Kardega and Baunsjhor of Nuagaon and Jharbera, Kacharu and Pasara of Kuarmunda block.
Sahu said the villagers of affected areas are either forced to travel extra miles via Kuarmunda and Vedvyas to reach Rourkela or use bamboo bridges in dry season or avail risky ferry service in monsoon. Last year, ferry services were erratic and this year too, there is little hope of availability of the service as stringent safety norms have been set for boat owners, he added.
A daily labourer, Shibu Dang, who works at the Steel City, said during monsoon, they pay `10-15 per head with bicycle to cross the river. With the river gradually flowing high, he fears of losing daily earning as there is no certainty of boat services this time. A bridge over the river is urgently required to mitigate the hardship of villagers and boost agriculture economy, he added..
Though construction work on a high-level bridge at Lankoi-Khutgaon under Biju Setu Yojana (BSY) at a cost of ` six crore is underway, it would only connect some GPs of Nuagaon block. Executive Engineer of Rural Development Department KK Mishra said an estimate of `8.5 crore has been prepared for the proposed HL bridge over river Deo at Lahanda under BSY and hoped to get approval shortly.