Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 3:
Rivers in Odisha will dry up and the state will stare at a terrible water crisis if the Mahanadi river basin is inter-linked with Godavari, experts have warned.
Let alone water for industrial purposes, even drinking water may become a luxury for people across the state, if the warning sounded by the experts is anything to go by.
As per reports, 13 out of the 30 districts in Odisha are already chronically drought prone and the situation is only going to worsen further if the government goes ahead with the plan for interlinking.
Senior engineers of the state Water Resources Department have raised the spectre of an acute water scarcity in Odisha owing to the proposed river-linking of Godavari with Mahanadi river.
The experts from Water Resources department had submitted a report in 2001 based on a survey conducted during 1997-98 that almost all 11 river basins in the state would face severe water crisis by 2051.
Notably, the survey was done without taking into consideration the present scenario, which involves siphoning off huge amounts of water to industries, decreased water holding capacity of the riverbeds and irregular and deficit rainfall during monsoon.
In the present day situation, water is being supplied to 24 cities apart from being used for agricultural purposes. Besides, at least 105 industries are drawing water from the river system, which is contributing largely to the drying up of the rivers and reservoirs including the Hirakud Reservoir Dam (HRD) in Sambalpur. Except during monsoon and floods, the river basins invariably dry up for the better part of the year.
Today, the situation is grim in Jenapur, Akhuapada and Naraj. Particularly, the low-lying regions in these areas are heading towards a precarious state. If this trend continues, it would spell trouble for the people in these regions, a senior official of the department said.
“A decision has been taken to conduct a fresh survey in 11 river systems in the state and a circular in this regard has been issued on Tuesday,” said Director, Water Planning & Hydrology, Biswa Mohan Acharya.
Eleven River Basin Organisations (RBOs) comprising 34 members will be set up. The team would include experts from NGOs, retired engineers, and staff of various departments. These experts would conduct a survey on the amount of water flowing through the river basins and the requirement for all purposes. Based on the findings and deliberations, the state government would take a final call on the inter-linking of rivers, Acharya said.
Last Friday, a team of Union Water Resources Department held discussions with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik regarding the inter-linking of Mahanadi river with Godavari.
The Ministry of Water Resource envisages interlinking of Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery rivers, wherein Mahanadi is a key component in linking the peninsular (southern) rivers.
A National Perspective Plan was formulated for inter-basin transfer of water from surplus basins to deficit ones with a view to minimizing regional imbalances and optimally utilizing the available water resources.
As per the plan, the surplus water from the Himalayan region will be channelized to peninsular basin via Mahanadi. The water from the Himalayan basin would travel through Ganga, Baitarani, Bramhani and Mahanadi river to enter Rusikulya, Godavari, Krishna and Cauveri river.
For this, a dam would be constructed near Manibhadra in Nayagarh. As many as eight dams have been planned to be constructed to hold the excess water. An 827 km-long canal will be built to link the peninsular basin of which around 300 km would pass through Odisha. An estimated 18, 000 sq km land is required for implementation of this project and it is feared that the farmers would lose their fertile land along the riverbeds and other areas due to this project.
It may be mentioned here that the state government had taken up construction of 19 dams in the state almost two decades ago and they are far from over. Moreover, the state government scrapped the Sindol hydel project over Mahanadi for generating 320 megawatts of hydro energy three years ago owing to stiff opposition from various quarters. It had signed MoUs with NHPC and OHPC to set up the project.