SONEPUR :Even as Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments are trading charges against each other over construction of barrages on river Mahanadi, a closer look at the course of the river reveals that Sonepur district may become the worst affected due to the water dispute.
Of about 900 km stretch in Odisha, the river traverses 80 km in Sonepur alone reflecting the increased dependence of people of the district on the river.
Mahanadi enters the district at Kudopali village in S Patrapali panchayat of Ulunda and exits at Subalaya in Birmaharajpur. Any reduction in water flow would not only affect agriculture, but also hit the fisherfolk and boatmen hard.
Of the six blocks in the district, the river flows through four blocks of Ulunda, Birmaharajpur, Binka and Sonepur. While 70 per cent of cultivable land is irrigated under Hirakud Dam through canals in Dungripali and Binka blocks, farmers in Ulunda, Birmaharajpur and unirrigated areas of Binka and Sonepur are dependent on river Mahanadi. They get water through lift irrigation projects (LIPs) to irrigate their lands.
Sources said there are 194 LIPs along the entire stretch of river Mahanadi in the district. While 34 projects are located in Sonepur block, 38 LIPs lie in Binka, 31 in Birmaharajpur and 93 in Ulunda blocks. Farmers of the district say that any decline in the flow of water would adversely affect agriculture.
Similarly, eight villages each in Ulunda and Birmaharajpur blocks, nine villages in Binka, and fisherfolk residing in Sonepur and Binka towns, are dependent on the river for their livelihood. The reduced flow of the river would adversely affect their livelihood.
About 150 boatmen families earn a living by ferrying people across the river. Living on the banks of Mahanadi for generations, ferrying people of around 400 villages to the other side of the river has been their main source of income. The country boat owners apprehend that decrease in flow of water in river Mahanadi would affect plying of boats in the district. There are nine ferry ghats along the river in the district which ferry around 4,000 people daily.