JAGATSINGHPUR: Many rivers, considered the lifeline of Jagatsinghpur, have either dried up or are polluted with industrial waste and sewage. One such river is Alaka that flows through Biridi, Jagatsinghpur, Balikuda, Raghunathpur and Nuagaon blocks. The river stretches up to Erasama and joins the sea at Boitakulia under Erasama block.
Alaka has been the lifeline for thousands of villagers of Biridi, Jagatsinghpur, Balikuda and Erasama blocks. The river provided irrigation water to hundreds of acres of land besides giving fishermen their livelihood. Over the years, though, the river has narrowed down due to siltation and encroachments.
Sources said even the Fisheries Department is ignorant about the actual land area of the river as large chunks of the land have been encroached upon. This apart, people who depend upon the polluted river for drinking water have been complaining of problems like skin and teeth diseases.
Although they have been demanding the cleaning and de-weeding of the river, no steps have been taken so far by the local administration.
Protesting the negligence towards the river, villagers of five panchayats of Balikuda block under Alaka Surakhya Abhiyan have taken to the streets several times in the past demanding its renovation. The villagers also demanded construction of embankments on both sides of the river to prevent soil erosion. Two years back, the Orissa High Court had directed the State Government to inform it of the steps taken for revival of the river. The direction had come in response to a PIL filed by Society for Upliftment of Nation (SUN), a voluntary organisation of Jagatsinghpur district, through its secretary Ratnakar Nayak seeking direction to the State Government to take steps for revival of dead river from Nalio to Majhikora village under Balikuda block as per a letter of the then Union Minister for Water Resources.
The petitioner stated that the river at above mentioned point requires desiltation and preservation of water, which will help farmers in the area. It was further stated that the matter was placed before the Union Ministry of Water Resources, which had asked the State Government to prepare a project report and submit it to the Central Government for further action. However, the officials concerned have remained silent on the issue.
District Fisheries Officer, Gyanranjan Samal said a proposal was submitted to the State Government over the use of 25 acres of river area for pisciculture at Nardia under Balikuda block, six months back. Government is yet to give its nod to the project that would cost around `2.97 crore.
President of SUN, Susant Kumar Mohapatra informed that members of the organisation would resort to dharna in front of the Collector’s office and Naveen Nivas in Bhubaneswar in days to come if State Government pays no attention to the river.