Sambalpur: The state government’s ambitious Green Mahanadi Mission aimed at environment protection, checking riverbank erosion, flood control and spreading greenery has gone haywire in Western Odisha allegedly due to fund shortage, a report said.
The scheme having a plan outlay of Rs 5,000 crore was launched June 5, 2018 by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Sonepur. The scheme had a plan to plant over 5 crore saplings on 41,000 hectare of land on both the islets of the river within a period of five years in collaboration with the forest department.
In Sambalpur district alone, it was planned to plant 12.20 lakh saplings on 16,500 hectares of land comprising forest land, government land and private land.
Observers claim that the project has failed to live up to its expectation in other districts on the Mahanadi distributary region except the urban region of Sambalpur where the project has gained some success. The project has become successful in Sambalpur town due to allocation of more funds.
It is claimed that over 80 per cent of the saplings planted under the scheme on private land has survived. The plantation has led to the creation of a large jungle in Rengali and Jampali areas comprising 1.30 lakh trees.
Observers have alleged that the inability of the state government in providing required funds has scuttled the project elsewhere. It is alleged that funds stopped coming from the state government after saplings were planted following the programme’s launch. As a result, the saplings withered and wilted due to lack of upkeep.
The state government had included the Mahanadi Green Mission project in the MGNREGS scheme. However, short supply of funds in 2018-19 and 2019-20 fiscals derailed the project.
The authorities failed to make payments to the labourers following which they withdrew from the project. Moreover, no funds were sanctioned towards maintenance of the plants. As a result, all the saplings planted in the rural areas wilted. Forest officials said that over 60 per cent saplings have wilted due to the reason.
The forest department had appointed volunteers among the locals naming them as ‘Van Doot’ and ‘Mahanadi Sevak’ to plant saplings, work for their upkeep and conduct awareness drive in the area on environment protection. However, these volunteers withdrew from the project after the forest department failed to pay them honorarium and for other works under the scheme.
DFO Sanjit Kumar admitted that the scheme has failed to achieve its target in rural areas. This year, attempts are being made to meet the objectives and plant new saplings in place of the wilted ones with fresh funds available under the project.