BHUBANESWAR: As the Opposition Congress and the BJP came down heavily on the ruling BJD for acute scarcity of water across the State, the Odisha Government blamed the Centre for drastically cutting Central assistance for drinking water supply schemes.
Maintaining that drinking water problem is severe this time due to lack of rainfall during the last seven months, Rural Development Minister Badrinarayan Patra said in the assembly on Wednesday that the problem is not State-specific, the entire country is under the grip of water crisis.
In response to the admissibility of an adjournment motion, Patra said the Pipe Water Supply (PWS) projects under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) has suffered a great deal due to abrupt discontinuation of Central fund. “In 2014-15, the Centre had provided Rs 230.66 crore financial assistance under NRDWP. However, the assistance was reduced to Rs 89 crore in 2015-16. The Government could mobilise Rs 335 crore from its own resources to complete 384 out of 954 projects proposed for the fiscal,” he said.
Since the Centre has indicated to provide only Rs 24 crore in 2016-17, the State Government has made a provision of Rs 351 crore out of its own resources for PWS projects, the Minister said.
Patra claimed that drinking water is made available to 1,57,158 villages and habitations through 4,30,717 tube- wells while 10,228 piped water supply projects had been set up benefiting residents of 34,704 villages.
Admitting that many tube-wells and pipe water projects have become non-functional due to rapid fall in groundwater table and drying up of traditional water bodies, Patra said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has directed the District Collectors to utilise the unspent balance of Rs 300 crore of the previous Finance Commission in mitigating the drinking water problems. Initiating the debate, senior BJP leader K V Singhdeo said the nexus between officers of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation and contractors is responsible for the current crisis. Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati said when liquor is available aplenty, drinking water has become scarce. He slammed the BJD for failing to meet the basic necessity of the people even after ruling for 16 years.
Leader of BJP Legislature Party Basanta Panda said the State Government should concentrate less on “Aahar” scheme and more on drinking water.
Showing a bottle of muddy water brought from Nuapada, his home district affected by fluorosis, Panda said this is the quality of water people are consuming. It is a shame that the Government has not been able to supply safe drinking water even after 68 years of Independence, he said.