Balasore: Even as the border dispute between Odisha and West Bengal over the areas abutting river Subarnarekha in Balasore still remained unresolved, the administrations of Balasore and West Midnapore district started bipartisan talks to resolve the issue Friday.
Significantly, with illegal sand mining by Bengal mafia being a bone of contention, the meeting has come following a recent directive of the National Green Tribunal to halt illegal sand mining in Subarnarekha and regularly check it.
Balasore Collector Ramesh Chandra Rout and his West Midnapore counterpart P Mohan Gandhi discussed various ways to resolve the row on the basis of the suggestions made by the NGT.
Both sides have unanimously decided to immediately halt authorised and unauthorised sand lifting, send a technical team to regularly check the sand quarries and demarcate the boundaries.
It was learnt from Friday’s talks that the problem has cropped up as the river has changed its course on both sides for over 5km. Both the states will work out modalities on how to settle the dispute and prepare guidelines.
Bengal mafia has been looting sand from the river for years. People living in fringe areas like Sahabajipur and Udaypur under Bhograi block in Balasore are angry over the illegal sand lifting.
Two days ago, Jaleswar tehsildar along with other officials had seized swamp pump sets and machines used by the Bengal sand mafia to lift sand from the river.
Against this background, Friday’s talks have brightened the hopes of paving the way for a solution to the long-standing issue.
Several months ago, the neighbouring state had caused another confrontation with the Odisha government when its irrigation department put up a signage and encroached upon a part of the Sahabajipur-Udaypur road.
West Bengal had started construction work in the name of ‘Digha Sea Beach Protection and Beautification Work’, claiming that Udaypur beach belonged to it.
Residents of fringe villages have strongly opposed such illegal activities of the West Bengal government. They had taken up the issue with the Bhograi MLA and the district administration.
Some leaders of West Bengal and officials had strongly opposed construction of Sahabajipur-Udaypur road by the state government December 31, 2015.
In October 2016, some people of West Bengal had pulled down a toilet. In the same month, the district administration of Balasore and Midnapore had held a meeting at Talasari marine police station and agreed that no development activities would be carried out in border areas.
But the Midnapore administration allegedly violated the agreement by installing a gate on the Odisha government’s road. Then, Bhograi MLA and Higher Education Minister Ananta Das warned the neighbouring government against putting up illegal structures in the area.
At Friday’s meeting, Balasore Superintendent of Police B Jugal Kishore Kumar and West Midnapore SP Alok Rajoria, sub-collector of Balasore, ADM of Midnapore, tehsildars and revenue officials of the both the districts were present.