KENDRAPARA: Living in constant fear of being devoured by nature has become a habit for the around 70,000 residents of riverside villages in Aul, Rajkanika and Pattamundai blocks.With Brahmani and Kharasrota rivers flowing past several villages in the three blocks, their residents are tired of the false assurances of elected representatives to construct stone embankments. Land erosion is a major issue in these areas and what’s worse is that its intensity has increased in the last few years.
Ashok Mallick, a resident of Katana village, said leaders of political parties promise to construct stone embankments before polls to protect the villages from the onslaught of the rivers. “But once elections are over, they forget their promises,” he said, adding the villagers have decided not to vote for BJD in the upcoming polls.
The plight of Baidyanath Behera, a farmer of Srirampur village under Pattamundai block, points towards the gravity of the problem. He has lost nearly two acre of land to the Brahmani river surge.Manoj Swain of Jayakunda village said problems related to erosion and resettlement of victims are part of election rhetoric of local politicians. He said the village committee, in the past, had called for boycott of polls to protest Government’s failure to initiate measure to check soil erosion, rehabilitation and construction of stone embankments. “However, it has had little impact,” he said.
Since the last General Elections, large tracts of land in Baradiha, Narendrapur, Katana, Bharigada, Guligaon, Bangarakua, Pandarakoli, Jayakunda, Sananko, Badanko, Kuladiha, Manikapatana and other villages have been consumed by the rivers. This has triggered large-scale displacement of people. But the authorities did nothing to protect the villages from the surging rivers as a result of which voters have decided to teach the BJD a lesson in the upcoming elections, said Pradip Behera, a retired school teacher of Jayakunda village.
The anger of villagers is not only directed at the BJD. They want no political leader to enter the area for elections. “We are not going to let any political leader enter our village to campaign for the elections,” said Ratnakar Das of Pandarakoli village. Krushna Chandra Behera of Kuladiha village said the rivers are now just a few yards from the villages. “We have lost our farmland and more than 200 persons have been rendered homeless in the last one decade,” he said.
Senior BJD leader and former chairman of Kendrapara Municipality Dhiren Sahoo said stone-packed walls were constructed in several riverside villages and the work will continue. He hoped the voters from these areas will vote in favour of BJD candidates.