Aul: Even as controversy rages over diversion of Kharasrota water from Kendrapara to Bhadrak, people affiliated to various outfits of Aul and Rajkanika block have resolved to intensify their agitation.
They will stage a sit-in near the Odisha Assembly September 7 demanding construction of a barrage in the downstream of the river, sources said.
They alleged that the state government is sidling the issue that diversion of fresh water from the river would affect agriculture in the region, biodiversity of Bhitarkanika and livelihood of thousands of people.
“The government has always ignored the need for a barrage on the downstream area of the river while it has not yet conducted any survey on how much water is flowing in Kharasrota,” they said.
The outfits have accused the government of forcibly carrying out the construction of an intake well of the drinking water project at Barunadiha.
Notably, since August 15, project opponents have been continuing peaceful sit-in protests at Maa Andharuni Thakurani temple. As the government is allegedly doing nothing for the barrage, locals have decided to stage a sit-in in front of the Assembly since September 7.
This was stated by Duryodhan Mohanty, president of Kharasrota Bachao Sangram Samiti. He said that hundreds of people from Aul and Rajkanika would hold sit-in protests in front of the Assembly.
Before the start of construction of the project, the administration had imposed section-144 around the project site August 9 with deployment of force. Kharasrota Bachao Sangram Samiti activists descended to agitation August 10 and some people were taken into preventive custody for violating the prohibitory orders under section 144.
On August 12, people and the police had a face-off. Locals vandalised the machinery and a temporary camp of the construction agency. Locals alleged that false cases have been filed against over 800 people while 24 of them have been arrested.
Police action has also caused deep resentment among the people. Environmentalists have warned of ecological consequences from the diversion of water from the Kharasrota river system.
They said that the proposed mega drinking water project will adversely affect the fragile mangrove ecosystem in the Bhitarkanika National Park.
“Bhitarkanika forest, the second largest mangrove ecosystem in the country, is now under severe threat due to the planned diversion of fresh water from the Brahmani river basin,” they said.
They alleged that the state government had ignored the need to conserve the wetland for posterity even though it is a notified Ramsar Convention site.
The proposed Rs 892 crore project will draw water from the Kharasrota, a tributary of the Brahmani river, for piped water supply to 91 panchayats under four blocks in neighbouring Bhadrak district, where the groundwater is acutely saline.