BALANGIR:Balangir, which was known as the town of ponds not long back, now faces acute water scarcity, thanks to the administration’s neglect of the water harvesting structures that once catered to the people’s needs round-the-year.
The worst affected areas in the town are Tikrapara, Malpara, Rameswar Nagar, Talpali Para, Radharani Para, College Chowk, Shanti Para, Sudpara, Railway Station Road and Mahalaxmi Nagar. While the water bodies have been damaged, polluted and encroached, the water supplied through the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) has proved to be acutely inadequate.
Balangir town has a glorious past of having traditional water bodies which were called Bandh, Sagar, Kataa and Chahalaa. Since the town does not have any perennial river, the ponds served as lifeline of its people who depended on them for their daily needs even during summer. Due to royal patronage and awareness of people, the ponds remained free of pollution.
But over the years, as the town expanded and its population increased, the water bodies were exploited for all purposes leading to their pollution. Now, the water of none of the ponds is suitable for human consumption.
The royal family of Balangir had excavated 18 ponds in the town to meet the water needs of the people. Those were designed in such a way that the water channels were linked to one another so that water level of all the ponds remains same. Laxmizor Dam, Maharani Sagar, Pratap Sagar, Ranibandh, Karangakata, Narsingh Bandh, Get Sarobar and Ghikundi ponds were connected with each other.
Maharani Sagar, a 107-acre tank was the prime source of water supply to Balangir town. The water of Karangakata pond was used for drinking and bathing purposes.
The catchment and aycut areas of the reservoirs have been encroached by the locals. The 500-acre aycut area of Maharani Sagar has been reduced to around 50 acres due to encroachment by local residents.
The Karangakata tank is also suffering similar fate. The pond has turned into a dumping yard of garbage and debris. Its embankment has been demolished and its bed encroached by a private hotel for parking of vehicles.
Balangir MLA and Leader of the Opposition Narsingh Mishra said the town needs a systematic planning for revival of these traditional water harvesting structures. After proper renovation, it will help in mitigating the water crisis of the town, he added.
Executive Officer of Balangir Municipality Santosh Behera said the renovation work of the ponds has been handed over to the Minor Irrigation Department. The Department will prepare a detailed project report (DPR) and submit it to the Housing and Urban Development Department. The Rural Development Department has already placed funds for the same. After approval of the DPR, the renovation work will start, he added.