BHUBANESWAR: The Lower Suktel irrigation project in Balangir district is not going to be shelved by the Odisha government following the Central Water Commission’s (CWC) refusal to accord approval to it.
However, the project, languishing for more than two decades for several reasons including local protests, will have to wait till the Mahanadi River Water Disputes Tribunal gives its verdict.
Minister of State for Water Resources Raghunandan Das told this paper that as the Lower Suktel is one of the Mahanadi basin projects, it can go forward only after the Tribunal delivers its judgement.Stating that approval of the CWC is required for the project, the Minister said that after getting permission the High Power Committee (HPC) will meet to decide how to fund the project. He, however, made it clear that there is no question of stopping the project.
Meanwhile, because of the delay in project work, cost escalation has become one of the major worries for the government. While the cost estimate of the project was Rs 217.13 crore in 1996, it was revised to Rs 1,041.81 crore in 2010. The estimate has been further revised to Rs 2,448 crore now. The survey for the Lower Suktel Major Irrigation Project was done way back in 1979.
Sources said that so far the State government has spent around Rs 1,500 crore on the project. Of this, 50 per cent has been spent on the dam while 45 per cent has been spent on the silos. Chief construction engineer of the project Niranjan Rout said that the revised estimate will be put before the government for its approval.
Rout said that the Suktel project does not have any inter-state dimension as the Tel river, of which Suktel is a tributary, merges with Mahanadi at the downstream of Hirakud dam. Besides, the Suktel river emerges from the Gandhamardhan hills. He, however, said that the appraisal of the Mahanadi basin projects cannot be processed further, until the finalisation of the water availability from the river to each co-basin state.
Leader of the Congress Legislature Party and local MLA Narasingha Mishra said work on the dam has already started. Now road work up to the dam site is going on so that heavy vehicles can reach the site, he said and added that there is no question of the dam work stopping.