Exclusion of N Odisha from Waterway-V Plan Resented
BALASORE: Exclusion of Orissa Coast Canal (OCC) of British era from the proposed National Waterway-V for which the State Government recently signed an MoU with the Inland Waterway Authority of India (IWAI) has sparked off resentment among people of Balasore and Bhadrak districts.
On Monday, the State Government, Paradip Port Trust (PPT) and Dhamra Port Company Limited (DPCL) signed the MoU with IWAI for development of the waterway at `2000 crore for facilitating cargo movement.
The National Waterway-V runs through a total length of 623 km, of which 91 km is within West Bengal and the remaining 532 km in Odisha. The decision to take up 332-km waterway comprising 201-km stretch to link Jokadia/Pankapal (Kalinga Nagar) with Dhamra and Paradip ports and 131-km between Talcher and Kalinga Nagar has left people here surprised.
A seafarer Prasanta Kumar Padhi said the objective of the waterway may not be fulfilled if the entire stretch is not included in the project. “The Government must include the Orissa Coast Canal between Geonkhali in West Bengal and Charbatia in Bhadrak district in the project for overall development of north, east and central Odisha,” he said.
Sources said when the Bill was introduced in Parliament on December 8, 2006, it included the entire 623-km stretch to declare NW-V and was passed with amendments in 2008. It was also expected to handle over 18 million tonnes of cargo of coal, fertiliser, cement, iron ore, agricultural and industrial products annually.
It was also decided to build four terminals at Talcher, Nasirbad, Balasore and Rajnagar, but surprisingly the Balasore portion was excluded from the present project. Locals blamed the political lethargy and administrative negligence behind the decision.
In 1888, the OCC (Range I to V) was built by the Britishers at a cost of around `45 lakh, parallel to the sea, nearly 2 kms from the beach, for transport through steamers. The canal, which originally had a minimum bottom width of 40 feet, now lies in dilapidated condition.
As per the project report prepared by Water and Power Consultancy Services (Wapcos) in 2008 for the waterway project of a length of 588 km (river portion - 371 km and canal portion - 217 km), the total expenditure was estimated at `4209 crore and period of completion was seven years. While nearly 846 hectares of land was to be acquired in West Bengal, nearly 1172 ha was needed to be acquired in Odisha at a cost of `176 crore in total.
Social activist Anirudha Prasad Das, who has written several letters to the Chief Minister demanding renovation of the OCC, said the waterway once developed would provide immense irrigation facilities and control flood in the region.