Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 28:
After coming under heavy fire at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting over the jaundice outbreak in the western Odisha town of Balangir, the Urban Development department has promised to provide piped drinking water in all areas of the district headquarters town by the end of July 2016.
The department also promised to supply drinking water through tankers till then. The Lower Suktel Project too figured during the discussions at the meeting.
The PAC met to discuss jaundice situation and the progress of Lower Suktel Project.
Departmental officers present at the PAC meeting chaired by Leader of the Opposition in the Odisha Assembly Narasingha Mishra revealed that 40% area in Balangir town got their drinking water through pipelines while the remaining 60% depended on ponds and tube wells to meet their needs.
Water of all 16 ancient ponds in the town was polluted while most of the tube wells were defunct. The condition of Laxmijor that flows inside the town is pathetic. The PAC expressed its displeasure over the neglect and indifference of officials towards the situation despite jaundice assuming alarming proportions in the town.
Out of 70 new tube wells sanctioned through various schemes, ten are yet to be sunk. The Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) has provided Rs 16 crore for Laxmijor while funds are yet to be sanctioned for renovation of the 16 ancient ponds despite estimates having been drawn up for the purpose.
The Leader of the Opposition Narasingha Mishra, who is also the local MLA, had provided Rs 50 lakh from his MLA LAD funds for construction of tanks at different locations in the town to be filled with drinking water to be delivered through 25 tankers. But neither work on the tanks has been completed nor have tractors been arranged for carrying tankers, the meeting revealed.
After the PAC expressed grave concern over the situation, the Urban Development secretary promised to supply drinking water to different areas of the town through 25 tankers attached to tractors. The department said that by the end of July 2016, all areas in the town will be covered by piped water supply. In addition to this, all drinking water pipelines will be replaced. Till then, drinking water will be supplied through tankers. Moreover, the department too has agreed to repair all pipelines that are more than 30 years old.
The issue of Lower Suktel Project was also the subject of heated discussions during the meeting. The original estimate of the project was Rs 272 crore when Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone of the project. The project cost has gone up by ten times now. The PAC directed the Water Resources department to implement the decisions taken at the RPDAC meeting held on 15th of last month.
As per the RPDAC decision, land will be acquired as per provisions of the new law. Land acquisition process has been affected due to negligence of government officers in about 29 villages. The Water Resources department has been directed to complete this work arly apart from appointing an independent land acquisition officer for the purpose.
Notably, only 3% of the land in Balangir district is irrigated. Without Lower Suktel project, achieving the target of 35% irrigation in the district is impossible.