Bhograi (Balasore): Delay in land acquisition and opposition from locals has resulted in procrastination of the ambitious river-based Subarnarekha port project in Balasore district, a report said Thursday.
According to the report, the Odisha government had announced setting up of the port about 14 years ago. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid foundation stone for the port in 2019. However, since then no work has been done.
Addressing a public rally in Bhograi in December 2006, the Chief Minister had announced the port project at an estimated cost of Rs 5,000 crore at Kirtania.
However, just two days after this announcement, the location of the port was changed. The Odisha government signed an agreement with the Chennai-based Creative Port Development Limited to set up this port at Choumukhi.
In 2018, Tata Steel proposed to pump in about 51 per cent of the total investment. The Chief Minister, while addressing a youth rally February 13, 2019 in Balasore claimed the port project will create scope of employment for 12,000 people with development of roads and railway connectivity in the region.
The central government had announced a mega project with an investment of Rs 75,000 crore. However, over 60,000 people living in six coastal panchayats have opposed the port project and the central project.
Locals united under the Bhitamati Surakhya Committee expressed fears that the project would displace a large number of people. Their livelihood depends on paddy farming, fishing, betel and betel nut farming.
On the other hand, just 10 nautical miles from the port project, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee has announced a sea-based port at Ramnagar in East Medinapore district. She assured that the people in the area would not be affected by displacement while 15,000 people will be provided with a scope of engagement.
Reliable sources said building of the port in West Bengal will start this month. Although 14 years have passed, the Subarnarekha project has been hanging fire while some opposition leaders and environmentalist have supported the opponents of the project.
Another problem is that some outfits have been batting for the port to be set up at Kirtania or at Bichitrapur.
District planning board chief and Bhograi MLA Ananta Das said the state government will decide on the location of the port. Former MP Rabindra Jena said the port, once commissioned, will bolster the social-economic condition of people in the district.
Union Minister Pratap Chandra Sarangi said due to delay in land acquisition, the project is getting delayed. “I have written in this regard to the state and central governments. I have also demanded compensation for those who will be displaced by the project,” Sarangi informed.
Congress leader Sadashiba Das said,”The project has failed owing to apathy of the Odisha government and people’s representatives in the area.
Convener of the Bhitamati Surlhya Committee Arun Jena observed that the government wanted to snatch the livelihood of lakhs of people by displacing them in the name of development. “The project will protect interests of capitalists. We will put up fight and will not spare our land,” he resolved.
The project was reviewed at a high-level meeting here a few months ago. The project requires 692 acres; 4.24 acres is required for railway connectivity and 1.53 acres is needed for construction of access road.