Sambalpur: Hirakud Dam, one of the first major multipurpose river valley projects in Independent India designed to control floods in delta areas of the river Mahanadi, turned 61 Thursday.
Though a lot of dreams were woven ahead of its commissioning by Indian’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru January 12, 1957, most of them have remained unfulfilled even after so many years.
While many displaced families are yet to get the record of rights for their land and ration cards, people who eke out a living by fishing, don’t get the required aid from the government. Displacement coupled with atrocities inflicted by local industrial units trigger stir among people every now and then.
Half of 26,000 families who had to sacrifice their ancestral land for the greater interest of the state, continue to lead miserable lives for 60 years by working as daily labourers. The oustees still wait in bated breath to get compensations even as their pleas have fallen on deaf ear of the administration.
On the other hand it was alleged that the government is contemplating to waive water tax to the tune of Rs 476 crore to the industries who leave no opportunities to release their toxic water into the reservoir.
According to a report, there were 183 fish species in the reservoir when the dam was set up. This has come down to just 70 due to water contamination caused by the peripheral industry houses.
There are still 34 non-revenue villages in Hirakud cut-off regions and the residents are deprived of basic amenities offered by the government.
Apart from the resentment of displaced people, repair of the cracks developed in dam’s wall and siltation of the dam have become major causes of worry for both the state and the Centre.
The volume of silt deposited over the years has been calculated to be more than 45 crore trips which have severely affected the water holding capacity of the 28.5 km long dam. The capacity of the dam at the beginning was 4.72 million acre feet which has come down to 3.91 million acre feet at present. The siltation has reduced the capacity by 17.16 per cent. Meanwhile, the dam authorities approached Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)- Chennai in 2015 for dam’s desiltation.
Similarly, the power generation has decreased over the years due to less flow of water from upper catchment area of Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh. Multiple dam projects set up in the neighbouring state has not only compounded the problems, the farm activities in Hirakud command area is likely to be severely affected by these projects, it was learnt.
The three objectives – flood control, irrigation and power generation – behind setting up of the project appear to have gone haywire. PNN