KENDRAPARA: Taking the administration head on over the Rs 754 crore mega drinking water project on Kharasrota river, hundreds of villagers of Rajkanika block broke prohibitory orders and ransacked the construction site at Bharigada village on Thursday.
Armed with bamboo sticks and wooden planks, villagers including women gathered at the project site and damaged offices, vehicles and other infrastructure which has left the State administration in a spot of bother as Kendrapara is a politically sensitive district for the BJD-led government.
Miffed with the government’s plan to divert water from the river in Kendrapara to the neighbouring Bhadrak district, irate villagers damaged several vehicles including an oil tanker, ambulance, three JCB machines and camp offices of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS). They also went after police, government officials and RWSS staff present at the site.
As many as 16 platoons of police force were mobilized to prevent any escalation of the situation. Central Range IG Narasingh Bhol, Kendrapara SP Sandeep Sampat Madkar and other senior officials are camping near the project site to check law and order situation.
However, the protesters said they are in mood to back down. Secretary of Kharasrota Banchao Sangram Samiti Bidhan Das said protest will be intensified if the State government does not scrap the project.“On pretext of providing drinking water to people, the government has planned to supply water to multinational companies and big business houses to run their plants and industries. The project will lead to a drastic fall in the water level of Kharasrota and affect farming in the district,” Das said.
The incident came as a setback to State Police as prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC were imposed near the construction site in Bharigada and Barunadiha panchayats of Rajkanika and Balakati in Aul block till October 8 to speed up project work. Around 72 protestors including two former MLAs of Aul Debendra Sharma and Dolagobinda Nayak were also arrested for blocking the road near the project site at Barunadiha village. But it went in vain.
People in three panchayats of two blocks have been opposing the project as the river would dry up after its implementation. They fear inadequate water flow in Kharasrota will gradually destroy farming in 220 riverside villages having a population of around four lakh in Aul and Rajkanika blocks.
The project has been approved by the State government under Basudha Yojana to supply drinking water to Chandabali, Tihidi, Basudevpur and Dhamnagar blocks besides 47 wards in Basudevpur municipality, Dhamanagar and Chandabali NACs of Bhadrak district. However, a section of the public in Kendrapara’s Rajkanika and Aul are opposing the project.Kendrapara Sub-Collector Niranjan Behera said, “We will take strong action against the persons who ransacked the construction site and assaulted government officials.”