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Andhra, Orissa lock horns over dam

The Inter-State dispute over sharing of river water was ignited as the AP CM lays the foundation stone for construction of an irrigation project over Mahendrataneya river, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.
Hindustan Times | By Soumyajit Pattnaik, Bhubaneswar
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 03:34 AM IST

Another Inter-State dispute over sharing of river water was ignited on Friday after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy laid the foundation stone for construction of an irrigation project over Mahendrataneya river in Srikakulum district.

Reddy ignored Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s letter sent on April 2 not to commence construction of the project till a joint technical team from both the states could inspect and submit a report on the project.

Mahendrataneya is an inter-state river, which originates from Mahendragiri hills, a reserve forest in Gajapati district of Orissa. The river flows through 26-km in the state of Orissa, enters into Andhra Pradesh and then it becomes the inter-state boundary of the two states. After running as the boundary, it re-enters completely into AP territory again and joins Bansadhara river.

Orissa apprehends that if this project is constructed, then large areas of Gajapati district, already reeling under water crisis will go completely dry.

In his letter to Reddy, Patnaik has sought to know whether the proposed irrigation project has got the necessary approval from the Central Water Commission. He has raised apprehensions that the construction of a sluice on the left side of the river would lead to a change in the river course. “Because of this project, the downstream areas of Mahendrataneya river in Gajapati district will face severe shortage of water. Such a project can give rise to law and order problem too in Parlakhemundi (district headquarters of Gajapati district) and adjoining areas,” Patnaik said in his letter.

To counter the Andhra move, Orissa has now decided to construct two diversion weirs (barrages) in the upper reaches where the river flows through Orissa before entering Andhra Pradesh.

One diversion weir will be constructed across Jalaga Nala, a tributary of Mahendrataneya river near Champur village and another diversion will come up across Mahendrataneya near Damapur village. Completion of the diversion weirs will provide irrigation and drinking water benefits to the people of Gajapati district.

While Reddy laid the foundation stone of the project, people in Parlakhemundi held demonstrations against the project and burnt the former’s effigies. Purna C Mohapatra, convenor of Mahendrataneya Surakhya Manch told the Hindustan Times: “We have received support from all political parties in Orissa. If the project is not stopped, then transportation of goods from AP will be stopped.”

The Orissa government is also contemplating to move Supreme Court on this issue.

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