Hundreds of fishermen staged a demonstration in front of the oil refinery project of IOCL on Monday demanding removal of encroachments over the Atharbanki Haldiapani river.
Nearly 5,000 fishermen families from Gandikipur, Gopiakuda, Kaliapata, Taladanda, Duadia, Kabalpur, Hansina, Bariha, Fatehpur, Bishali, Paradipgada and Mangarajpur depend on the river, a tributary of the Mahanadi, for their livelihood.
The Irrigation Department, describing the rivulet as a creek, had approved the IOCL’s construction project here. The agitating fishermen alleged that construction of bridges, roads and embankments had choked the river affecting its flow. Besides, they are unable to use boats on the creek to catch fish.
Fishermen argued that the community has legal rights over the water body since the Department has leased it out for fishing against an annual premium payment.
Water logging in the nearby villages is the other problem faced by the locals. They attributed it to non-release of surplus water through the creek.
A revenue officer, however, said IOCL had not taken permission from the Department to construct an embankment and hence, it is illegal.
Earlier, IOCL had constructed a bridge over the river and at the intervention of the High Court paid a compensation of ` 4.50 lakh to the affected fishermen.
IOCL Deputy General Manager Niroda Kumar Das has said a permanent bridge is being constructed over the river after obtaining permission from the Department of Water Resources.
To protect the structure, a temporary bridge is being built which would be removed once the permanent one is completed, he said, adding that the fishermen had been paid ` 4.50 lakh as compensation.