MALKANGIRI:For people residing in the cut-off villages on the other side of Balimela reservoir, commuting to Malkangiri town has been an ordeal for the past six decades. It takes them more than five hours to reach Chitrakonda through a motorboat to get essential commodities during the rainy season.
“We have been water-locked and there is no road connectivity to the mainstream,” says Madan Hantal, who lives in Papermetla, a hamlet located on the other side of the reservoir. Like Hantal, thousands of others in different cut-off villages have accepted this way of life after the Chitrakonda Dam was constructed in 1964 to pave way for Balimela Hydro Power Project.
Construction of the much-delayed Gurupriya bridge has finally brought in some hope for this unfortunate population.
Work on the bridge started in September this year and has been going on at a war footing over river Janbai, near the Balimela reservoir. If everything falls in place, the bridge will be opened by September, 2017. Apparently, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the bridge 12 years back. Though conceived in 1982 by former Chief Minister JB Patnaik, work on it took off only after Naveen laid the stone in 2003.
The project comprises a 910 metre-long Gurupriya bridge and 1200 metre road. A Kolkata-based construction company - Royal Infraconstru Limited - has taken over the construction work from September this year after Gamon India left the work midway following Maoist threat.
Construction of Gurupriya bridge is progressing fast and the project will be completed within the scheduled time, said Road and Buildings Division Executive Engineer Arun Kumar Sahu.
Informing this paper about the progress of the work, Sahu said, of the total 102 piles, construction of 47 piles has already been completed. The bridge will stand on 84 piers and 18 abutments.
Considering the present pace of work and the hawk eye vigil being maintained by BSF personnel, the company is set to complete the bridge by September 2017, the scheduled time, said Collector D Prashant Kumar Reddy.
However, funds for the project have never been a problem as the State Government has been making adequate arrangements in its Supplementary Budget, sources said.
The bridge, once complete, will provide connectivity with the mainland for more than 30,000 people of 152 revenue villages spread over six panchayats of Badapada, Papermetla, Jodamba, Panasput, Andrapalli and Badpadar who remain cut-off since 1964.
Once open, the bridge will the shorten the distance drastically. Hari Khilla of Papermetla, who visits Chitrakonda to sell turmeric said, “It will not take me about 40 minutes on foot to reach Chitrakonda after the bridge opens.”