CUTTACK: In what could be a huge shock to the BJD government’s much-touted Baliyatra Riverfront Improvement (BARFI) project, which is the reclamation of land from the Mahanadi river bed from Jobra Barrage to Gadgadia Ghat, Union Minister for Water Resources and Tribal. The Bisweswar Tudu welfare agency called the move illegal on Sunday.
Tudu, who inspected the area from Jobra Barrage to Gadagadia Ghat, expressed his displeasure with the filling of the river bed with sand and shallows. He stated that backfilling the river bed was illegal and promised to call a meeting soon to discuss the matter with the Secretary of State for Water Resources. A team of lawyers who accompanied him during the inspection will be invited to the meeting, he said.
The minister was in town to participate in the “Namami Gange” program organized by the local BJP unit. He inspected the river bed after a team of lawyers led by attorney Pradip Pattnaik filed a petition alleging the state government breached the order of the Orissa Supreme Court by entering the Mahanadi River.
In the petition, Pattnaik said the state government had decided to provide water to Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) by leasing part of the shoal pit (a small island) in the Mahanadi waterfront. In 2011, a PIL was filed with the Orissa Supreme Court with the prayer that the Mahanadi barrage would be saved and that water from the river would only be supplied to farmers for irrigation purposes, as the barrage’s water retention capacity was insufficient to meet other requirements.
At the PIL hearing on February 27, 2012, the High Court ordered the IOCL and the state government to take steps to increase the water retention capacity of the barrage by dredging the reservoir area, which is used to meet irrigation, drinking and commercial needs Purpose.
According to the instruction, the IOCL had deposited Rs 300 crore with the state government that carried out the dredging in 2020.
But instead of moving the sand and the shoals that were excavated from the pond area to other locations, the authorities surprisingly dumped the same inside the pond that penetrates the 5 km long and 1.5 km wide river bed from Jobra to Gadagadia Ghat and a new island with around 600 hectares of land. Pattnaik claimed in his petition that the move reduced the water retention capacity of the barrage.
“The Orissa Supreme Court judgment has been refuted and defaced and the purpose of improving the water retention capacity of Jobra Barrage has been sabotaged, resulting in inadequate water supplies in canals such as Taladanda, Kendrapara, Pattamundai, Machhagaon and senior canals in the 50 lakh farmers Districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Jajpur were affected, “says the petition.
As part of the BARFI project, the state government has recaptured 600 hectares of land from the Mahanadi river bed to use it for the construction of office buildings, hotels, hospitals, entertainment areas, etc.
Compression of the river bed will not only reduce water retention capacity, it will have catastrophic effects on the city and low-lying upstream areas that would experience high flooding due to the clogging of the reservoir. The petitioners called for immediate action to stop the river bed from filling up and restore it to its original shape.