Dhenkanal: Over three years have passed since the announcement but the National Waterways project in Odisha’s two major rivers Mahanadi and Brahmani have remained a non-starter. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced this while laying the foundation stone for expansion of National Highway-53 at Sarangdhar Stadium in Kamakhyanagar of Dhenkanal district, February 6, 2019. Gadkari had said that the establishment of an inland waterway project is essential for the development of the state. The Centre will spend over Rs 5,000 crore for this mega project which will open a new chapter in the field of import and export, he had declared, spreading cheers among the residents.
The aim behind including these two rivers in this Centre-sponsored project was to facilitate plying of cargo ships. The cargo ships would ferry manufactured goods and heavy equipment from the industrially rich Dhenkanal, Angul and Jajpur districts. The implementation of the National Waterway project will make way for cargo ships to sail smoothly in the river. Implementation of the project will also help in hassle-free transport of coal, fertilizers and other products from these industrialised districts other than development of agriculture, tourism, industrialisation and arresting environmental degradation. This will not only save time but will also help in drastic reduction in transport costs.
After the announcement, a roadmap was prepared by the state Works department to construct new bridges on the rivers and upgrade the existing bridges to greater heights to facilitate plying of cargo ships. However, the project is yet to take off with Centre remaining silent on the project. Accordingly, construction of new bridges has been started in Dhenkanal district.
However, the project has remained a non-starter with no instruction yet available on upgradation of two old bridges. The project is mired in haze as no clear picture is yet available whether the heights of these old bridges will be increased as per guidelines or they will be dismantled to construct new bridges. As per guidelines, if these old bridges will be dismantled then what will be the deadline for construction of new bridges and what will be the alternative to cross the river during the period of construction, locals expressed concern.
Meanwhile, three years have passed since Gadkari made this announcement and no report is available as to when and how it will be implemented. The state government has written letters to the Centre asking it to clear the doubts surrounding the project but the latter is yet to reply. Residents have termed it as sheer eyewash with no response coming from the Centre.
Notably, the National Waterways Act received the approval of the Centre in 2016. This project has been named as the TalcherDhamara Jalmarg-5. Accordingly, a new bridge at an expense of Rs 205 crore is being constructed on the Brahmani river from Kaluria in Gondia block to Dighi in Bhuban block of Dhenkanal district. The height of the bridge has been raised to 9 metre and width to 62.7 metre to facilitate movement of the ships.
Similarly, construction of two other bridges from Badakamar under Parjang block to Khadagprasad under Odapada block and from Ballhar Square in Talcher to Sarang on the river is underway as per guidelines. An existing bridge Sarangdhar Setu near DhenkanalKamakhyanagar road and another Baji Rout Setu connecting Mandar in Gondia block with Nilakanthapur under Bhuban block are yet to be upgraded as the Centre is yet to clear its stand and issue any guideline. When contacted, Manoranjan Biswal, superintending engineer of Works department in Dhenkanal said that the three new bridges are being constructed as per the Centre’s guidelines while the two new bridges will be upgraded after receiving any order from the Centre. Works Minister Prafulla Kumar Mallick said the state government in a letter had urged the Centre to implement the project. However, not much headway has been made in this front.