Chandbali: Canals, creeks and even parts of subsidiaries of rivers have been illegally occupied by the prawn mafia in the Chandbali block of Bhadrak, cutting water supply to farmlands, farmers lamented.
According to reports, the prawn mafia has grabbed hundreds of acres of government, pasture and forest lands along creeks and rivers. They have laid illegal prawn gherries and are bringing in saline water for prawn farming.
Some sluice gates are in their control and spurs have been cut to facilitate the inflow of saline water, local farmers said. This has created havoc for the farming community, but the Irrigation department and the administration have failed to take action against the prawn mafia despite repeated complaints.
Local farmers said in the kharif season, they are unable to get water from canals to farmlands near the canal area due to the salty water.
In this area, rivers, creeks, and canals join the Bay of Bengal. For some years a large number of prawn gheries have been set up here.
The Coastal Regulation Act does not allow these activities within 2 km from the sea but the prawn mafia has thrown rules to the winds.
A sluice gate has been built across the Nuanai Canal (connected to Mantei River) at Biswanathpur. Although the sluice gate is under the Irrigation department, the prawn mafia is operating it at its will to facilitate the inflow of salty water to their gherries.
The Haladigand Irrigation Project was commissioned in the area in 1992 and since then the Nuanai canal has been supplying water to farmlands. The sluice gate is meant to prevent seawater from entering through Mantei.
The canal was meant to play a major role in the growth of farming sector in Nuagaon, Jashipur, Jaleswarpur, Nalagohira, Mousudha, Mato, Nalgunda and Ghatapur panchayats.
But now sea water is gushing through the river throughout the year. The sea water also enters canals and finally ends up in farmlands, farmers added.
It has caused discontentment among locals, who have accused the administration of taking no action against the prawn mafia.
“During monsoon, the influx of sea water due to the gherries is harmful to paddy farming, vegetable crops and domestic animals,” said Narahari Das, a farmer of Paramananadapur.