Malkangiri: After remaining cut-off for 45 years, over 30,000 people living in 151 revenue villages near Chitrakonda reservoir in this district are finally going to get connected to the rest of the world as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is slated to inaugurate the Gurupriya bridge July 26.
The villages were separated from the mainland in 1964 when the reservoir was created for the Balimela Hydroelectric Project.
The bridge will give the villagers a new lease of life by connecting them with the outside world. The 910-metre long bridge is expected to resolve all problems of communication in the cut-off regions in and around Balimela and Chitrakonda reservoirs.
The villages under Chitrakonda tehsil are on the other side of the reservoir with most of them being on remote and hilly terrains. The villages are waterlogged from all sides and have no access to the outside world till now due to lack of road connectivity. They depend on launch services and country boats to get across the reservoir.
People in villages like Andrapali, Panasput, Jodaambam Paprmetla, Ralegeda, Badapada, Jantri, Gajalmamudi, and Dhuliput panchayats have been living lives of seclusion and deprivation.
Realising their plight, the Chitrakonda tehsil authorities introduced power launch service in the reservoir in 1976 to ferry the villagers. Later, the water resources department introduced two more launches taking the total number to three in 1988.
However, the service failed to meet the demands of scores of villagers. The villagers remained neglected on all fronts with basic services like healthcare, transportation, housing, education, drinking water and power supply eluding them for more than four decades.
As a result, the villagers depend on border towns of Andhra Pradesh to meet their requirements. An 18-km long kutcha road at Janbai connecting the cut-off areas with Chitrakonda was till the Gurupriya riverbank. The residents had to cross the river which often resulted in loss of lives and properties
The state government taking note of the hardships faced by the residents ordered for construction of a 520-km long bridge across Gurupriya and prepared a plan outlay of Rs 4.7 crore in 1982-83. However, the project failed to take off. Later, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik laid the foundation stone of a bridge at a cost of Rs 47.442 crore in 2006.
The length of the bridge was proposed to be 900 metre with 30 pillars. Two consultancy firms, Gamon India and BBJ, were awarded the contract and the companies started work in January 2007 promising to complete the project within a period of 30 months. However, the bridge project came to halt after the two firms abandoned the work in the middle.
Later, fresh tenders were invited for the bridge construction but no firm evinced interest in the project. Then Chief Secretary Bijay Patnaik conducted a review meeting and found that the fear of Maoists had been preventing the consultancy firms in executing the work. Maoists have been opposing the construction of the project right from the beginning.
The government assured to provide round the clock security by BSF jawans to the company taking up the project and its workers. Later, Royal Infra Construction of Kolkata was awarded the tender at a plan outlay of Rs 172 crore. The firm promised to finish the work by September 2017. After going through so many hurdles, the much-awaited project is finally set to see the light of the day.