Bhubaneswar: The National Waterway – 5 project proposed on River Brahmani in Odisha has remained only on paper even though a decade has passed to the announcement of the project. The authorities concerned are yet to start work at the ground level.
In a bid to ensure cost effective transportation of goods, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) had planned development of National Waterway (NW)-5 on river system of Brahmani, Kharsua, Mahanadi delta river, Matai river along with East Coast Canal (ECC) for navigation in a phased manner. The NW-5 was declared November 25, 2008.
The project was planned for transportation of coal produced by Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL), iron ore, chromite and finished product from domestic industries.
The NW – 5, with a total length of 588 km, consists of river and canal portion (ECC). Currently, the development of river stretch of 333 km consisting of Brahmani, Kharsua & Delta river systems of Mahanadi, is being taken up in two phases.
In June 2014, the IWAI had inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with state government, Paradip Port Trust (PPT) and Dhamra Port Company Limited (DPCL) for the development of the first phase of the waterway (201 km) which spreads from Jokadia/Pankapal near Kalinga Nagar industrial hub to Dhamra and Paradip port.
In the second phase, the stretch from Talcher to Jokadia (131 km) will be developed after completion of technical and engineering studies.
The government had made an estimation of `2,000 crore for execution of the project in 2008. Now, the cost of the project has escalated to over `11,000 crore. Experts are of the opinion that the cost may escalate to over `12,000 crore if the project is further delayed.
Activities like fairway development (mainly through dredging) and setting up of terminal facilities at Pankapal, Paradip and Dhamra are under progress.
“Activities regarding navigational clearance below the power lines are being taken up through the respective energy Distribution Company and OPTCL for which we have deposited `43 crore. Work has started and will be completed by December 2019” said Abinash Roul, Deputy Project Director, IWAI (Odisha Unit).
The IWAI will increase the height of bridges at nine locations to ensure smooth movement of cargo ships. The existing bridges will be replaced with new bridges for which technical study is going on, Roul said. Similarly, five barrages with navigational locks, one rubber dam and two check dams will be constructed under NW-5 project, said the deputy project director IWAI. The engineering study is now in progress. The study is expected to be completed by June 2020.
The IWAI authorities also initiated the process to get green clearance from the authorities concerned. Odisha Coastal Zone Management Authority (OCZMA) authorities have raised some objections to the project and their observations are being considered.
Asked about completion of the project, Roul said, “Revalidation of the MoU will be done very soon and the fairway for phase-1 will be completed by 2024-25. For phase-2, hydrology survey is in progress and soon we will conduct mathematical model study.”
Six NWs declared for Odisha
part from NW-5, five more national waterways involving six major rivers of Odisha – Mahanadi, Baitarani, Birupa, Budhabalanga and Subarnarekha – have been declared by the Centre under the National Waterways Act, 2016. Navigation and techno-economic feasibility studies are being conducted and detailed project reports (DPRs) are being prepared.
The DPR is being prepared on three projects (National Waterway-14, National Waterway-64 and National Waterway-96) while two projects (National Waterway-22 and National Waterway-23) are in feasibility study stage, according to sources at IWAI.
Out of the total length of the waterways, 425 km stretch (NW-64) has been planned on Mahanadi from Paradip sea mouth to Sambalpur barrage; 156-km (NW-22) planned on Birupa-Badi-Genguti-Brahmani river system; 49 km (NW-14) proposed on Baitarani river; 56 km (NW-23) planned on Budhabalanga river connecting Chandipur fishing port through Bay of Bengal; and 314 km long NW-96 proposed on Subarnarekha river connecting Chandili dam.
Though these five waterways were declared by the Government of India, four of these are not found feasible during preliminary study. Only NW-14 can be developed for fishing and tourism purpose, the source said.
A detailed project report is being prepared which says that the stretch can be used from tourism point of view as there are no industries in this belt. The IWAI is now discussing with Tourism department for development of the NW-14, they said.
‘Transport on water will harm ecology’
Ranjan Panda, Water Initiatives Odisha convener, strongly objected to the project and said, “The government is going to destroy our ecosystem. Now, the pollution is limited to only land of our state. But, with the implementation of the waterways projects, our rivers and other water resources will be polluted.”
With movement of big ships with minerals in the river systems, the aquatic life will be affected and it will have direct impact on the environment and animals living in the rivers, he said.
Panda further said destruction of mangrove forests will create severe environmental implications in the state.
“Though I am not sure, if the route is being planned through or nearby Bhitarakanika sanctuary, it should be stopped and opposed by government,” he added.
Jinda Sandbhor and Shripad Dharmadhikary of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra have prepared a paper titled ‘National Waterways in Odisha: A New Wave of Ecological Destruction’. As per their study, the waterways will involve huge interference in the sensitive ecosystems of the delta as well as the Mahanadi and Brahmani rivers.
“There will be activities like widening and deepening of canals and rivers, large scale dredging, construction of barrages, landing sites, locks and gates etc. All these will have huge impact on the local ecosystem, livelihoods and communities. The operation of the waterways will also have its own impact,” the study said.The waterways – that will affect lakhs of people and their livelihoods – is being carried out without informing the people. During field visit, the researchers found that the locals had no idea about such a project being planned.
- Waterways are cheaper modes of transport as compared rail and road transport
- Maintenance cost of water transport is also less in comparison with rail and road transport
- Heavy and bulky goods can be easily transported through waterways
- During natural calamities like flood and rains, when rail and road transport is disrupted, relief operations can be carried out through waterways
- Flood water can also be controlled to some extent
- The magnitude of air pollution will be less in water transport
- Dredging operations will damage riverbeds, and can lead to change in habitats for various aquatic flora and fauna
- Dredging may also affect aquifers along the river, damaging the ability of water to percolate down the ground
- Removal of river bed silt during capital dredging near estuaries and creeks can result in ingress of excess saline water into the rivers. This is one of the reasons why the state of Kerala had opposed many of its proposed waterways
- Construction of jetties, river ports will necessitate removal of trees/ mangrove forests in the area. For example, the mangrove forests on the bank of NW-10 at Dharamtar port have been removed for construction of a jetty
- Other environmental concerns include pollution due to oil and diesel from vessels, threat of leakage and spilling of oil from the cargo
- The project will have implications on livelihoods of people dependent on rivers and creeks. For example: fishing communities may be affected and people dependent on riverbed cultivation will also be hit