Sec 144 imposed in Odisha’s Kendrapara amid opposition to water project
Officials in the coastal Odisha district of Kendrapara on Tuesday clamped Section 144 of CrPC in three grampanchayats amid massive opposition to the drawal of water from a river in the region for supplying piped water to people of neighbouring district.
The Kendrapara district administration imposed prohibitory orders in Balakati, Bharigada and Barunadiha grampanchayats in Rajkanika block till October 8, and deployed 12 platoons of police in the area to prevent any law and order problem.
“We had requested the government to construct an in-stream barrage over Kharasrota river and supply the water to Bhadrak district. Diversion of water from Kharasrota river will result in water scarcity in Kendrapara. The police cannot guard the project round the clock. We have decided that we will now allow supply of Kharasrota water to Bhadrak until the in-stream barrage is constructed,” said KBSS convenor and former Congress MLA of Aul Debendra Sharma.
Since the last two years, the people of Rajkanika are up in arms against the ₹892 crore mega drinking water project that would supply water from Kharasrota river in the area to 91 grampanchayats of Bhadrak district where groundwater has suffered saline ingress due to proximity to the Bay of Bengal. The people of Rajkanika fear that the drinking water project would not only result in the drying up of the riverbed, but deprive them of irrigation water to their farmlands and lead to acute drinking water crisis in the area. On October 16, more than 2,000 locals had formed a two kilometre-long human chain at Rajkanika to protest against the proposed project.
The project is expected to solve the drinking water crisis for 650,000 people in 91 grampanchayats of Chandbali, Tihidi, Dhamnagar and Basudevpur blocks where the rampant drawal of groundwater over the years resulted in substantial draw-down of the groundwater table causing massive saline ingression in and around the villages.With the nearby rivers of Baitarani, Kansbans, Salandi and Mantei not having enough water to meet the requirement of people in these 91 grampanchayats, the state government in 2019 proposed the mega drinking water project to supply water would be supplied through a 15.5km long pipeline after treatment. By 2050, a maximum quantity of 86 million litres of water per day is proposed to be diverted from the river.
The Kharasrota is a tributary of Brahmani river.
“We suspect that the project will supply water to private companies in Bhadrak districts to run their plants and industries. Once the pipe water supply project starts the water level in Kharasrota will fall drastically and adversely affect farming in Kendrapada district. The project would also adversely affect the entire Bhitarakanika National Park as it is dependent for its survival on this river which is the only source of fresh water as the other rivers are saline in nature,” said secretary of the KBSS, Bidhan Das.
A Bharatiya Janata Party leader last year had filed a petition against the project in the National Green Tribunal alleging various environmental damages due to the proposed project. But the tribunal dismissed the petition in November last year.
However, Kendrapara district collector Amrit Ruturaj said the intake of water from Kharasrota would hardly affect the total flow in the river during the lean season.