Cuttack/Kendrapara/Balasore: Sand is an essential part of the river ecosystem. However, illegal and unsustainable mining of sand and boulders in Mahanadi river across Cuttack, Balasore and Kendrapara regions of Odisha is taking a heavy toll on lives and livelihoods of locals settled on the banks of the river as they live in persistent dread of natural calamities like floods.
Soil erosion along the Mahanadi riverbed at Pinpur under Uttarkul panchayat in the Cuttack district due to illegal sand extraction from the riverbed has triggered flood-panic among the villagers.
Due to the extreme soil inundation, around 200 feet of natural floodplain has been eroded in the flood waters recently leaving embankments weak and villagers anxious.
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Notably, villagers of riverside like Uttarkul, Babujang, Manijang, Mahammadpur panchayats under Nischintakoili block in Cuttack district and Tendakuda panchayat of Garadpur block in Kendrapara district are also facing a similar fate.
Similarly, riverside villages located close to Subarnarekha River that flows through Balasore district are also spending sleepless nights due to the fear of flood.
Villagers allege that rampant illegal sand mining has led to soil erosion as a result of which many big trees near the river which had been saving the riverside villagers from flood, have been washed away.
Recently, heavy rains due to low pressure has been increasing water level in Mahandi Rive dangerously. And increased water levels in the river is a major threat to locals here.
On being informed, the district administration have started filling sandbags along riverbank as a temporary solution to tackle any possible flood threat in the ongoing monsoon season. However, the villagers have demanded a permanent solution to their problem.
“The sand mafia continued to operate the Balighat in the area with impunity with the support of local political leaders and revenue officials, even though their five-year-term lease agreements lapsed in March. Excess sand lifting has resulted in changing the course of the river and destroying the natural floodplain,” alleged a villager of Nischintakoili block in Cuttack district.
Some villagers have also alleged that they have lost their agricultural land which were near the river side due to the soil erosion.
Subhasis Mishra a villagers of Kendrapara district said the river is continuously moving towards the human habitat. If the situation will continue, our farmland and houses will also go underwater, he added.
Superintending Engineer of Cuttack Baleswarnath Sahoo said steps are being taken to check the erosion of Mahanadi floodplain by using wooden piles and sand bag packing on a war-footing.