PADAMPUR( BARGARH ):At a time when lack of water to irrigate fields led farmers to commit suicides over fear of loan burden after crop loss, two groups of villagers are on a warpath over Ongoing Medium Irrigation Project (MIP).
Thousands of people of 32 affected villages staged a demonstration at Bheunria Chowk here on Tuesday while those in favour of the project are slated to hold a convention supporting the project on December 28.
Ong MIP will be located near Pujharipali village, 15 km from Padampur. The project envisages construction of 7.48 km earth dam with spillway across river Ong with total catchment area of 2321 sqkm, out of which 1282 sqkm lies in Odisha and rest 1039 sqkm in Chattisgarh. The project will submerge 230 hectares of land.
However, on completion, the project will provided irrigation to 30,000 hectares in drought prone Padmapur, Sohela, Bijepur, Gaisilat blocks in Bargarh district and Agalpur block of Balangir district.
The project has received stage-I forest clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forest in February 2003 and public hearings conducted in Odisha as well as Chhattisgarh.
Though people to be affected by the project have been demanding construction of small check dams along the river to prevent submergence and displacement, the State Government is bent upon to going ahead with the construction.
What has raised concern is complete submergence of 11 villages Chardapali, Jagdalpur, Saraikela, Lakhmara, Changria, Lahandipur, Luhurakot, Mahulpali, Nuapada, Sambalpuri and Suklipahad. This apart, 21 villages including Pujharipali, Kulanti, Dhumabhata, Ghensra, Badikata, Manipur, Mohanpali, Chiroli in Odisha and Bhalukana, Pajhrapali, Beldihi and Jatakanha villages in Chhattisgarh will be partly affected.
Although the issue was pushed to the back-burner, the recent announcement of Chief Minister to spend `1,500 crore on the project has sparked a fresh round of agitation by the two groups in drought prone Padampur sub-division.
The protesters under the banner of Ong Nadibandha Pratirodh Committee (ONPC) also submitted a memorandum to Sub Collector Bijay Rath urging the State Government to review the decision failing which they have threatened to intensify the agitation.