Even as summer is yet to set in, Sundargarh has already started feeling the pangs of water scarcity. Rivers and natural streams across the mining and industrial district have started drying up.
Water level of river Brahmani’s contributories Sankha and Koel, which meet at Rourkela, has drastically reduced. Water holding capacity of river Ib along with a small river Safei near Sundargarh town and a number of natural water channels in the district which cater to the need of adjacent villages has also come down.
The Water Resources Department has been working on setting up a low-height storage structure over river Koel near Koelnagar of Rourkela city to address drinking water requirement in neighbourhood areas. Similar efforts are underway over river Ib to augment water supply in Sundargarh town. A farmer of Bisra block Sunil Kerketta said like previous years, they would completely depend on monsoon as lift irrigation facilities are of no use with water level going down.
Barring a few major industries including the Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) and OCL India Ltd, the private sector iron and steel industries who either rely on ground water or natural streams are also under pressure. Villagers continue to be up in arms against use of water by the industries and public resentment intensifies during summer.
A couple of days ago, villagers protested the effort of OCL Iron & Steel Ltd to set up an intake well in Kutra block to fetch water from river Sankh.
Former president of Odisha Sponge Iron Manufacturers’ Association (OSIMA) GS Agarwal said industries need water for survival and claimed that these industries consume merely three per cent of water resources.
District Nodal Officer to Water Resources Department Saroj Patnaik said the four reservoirs of medium irrigation projects at Sarafgarh, Talsara, Pitamahal and Kansbahal have adequate water. Although water level of rivers and streams have dipped, it would not have much impact as the holding capacity of the water bodies is more than enough.
Sources said the Mandira dam of the RSP too has adequate water reserve.