BHUBANESWAR: Two years after Odisha raised the Mahanadi river water dispute with Chhattisgarh and two months after the Centre formed a tribunal to adjudicate the matter, the State Government on Saturday announced that it is working on a roadmap and preparing a master plan for utilisation of the excess river water which is flowing into the Bay of Bengal unused.
While the announcement has made it amply clear that the Mahanadi river water dispute will be the major issue in the polls scheduled next year for the BJD, the opposition BJP and Congress have described it as political gimmick.
Minister for Water Resources Niranjan Pujari announced the State Government’s plan at a media conference after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the achievements of the department at the State Secretariat. The master plan includes construction of seven barrages in the downstream of Mahanadi. Besides, 22 barrages will be constructed on Mahanadi’s tributaries and distributaries. Pujari said, “The Government is working on a roadmap and a master plan to put a check on water of Mahanadi that is getting drained into the sea by constructing barrages and anicuts downstream of the river.”
The Minister did not divulge the details of the master plan as the dispute with Chhattisgarh is pending before the tribunal. There was also no clear picture about budgetary provisions for the projects which will require huge investment. Sources, however, maintained that the plans are afoot to implement the projects including barrages and anicuts at Boudh, Sambalpur, Subarnapur and Munduli. The projects would be crucial in meeting drinking water, irrigation and other requirements.
About 52 per cent of water of Mahanadi river is flowing into the sea unused. Odisha is using 48 per cent of water (22,948 million cubic meter) for irrigation and other purposes. However, the State Government’s decision to construct seven barrages on Mahanadi river has come as a surprise as it had dropped a proposal to construct a barrage at Sindhol in Sonepur district in 2011 apprehending objection by locals.
The Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with National Hydro Corporation for the project which was dropped later because of strong opposition from several BJD leaders including the Water Resources Minister, Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya and former minister Padmanabha Behera.
In this background, the announcement that the Government is working on a master plan which includes construction of so many barrages has raised doubts.