Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 3:
As if the mess that it made of the entire Nabakalebara process – starting from the contentious selection of the darus to the Bbrahma Parivaratn fiasco – was not enough, it has now emerged that the Odisha government knew all about the falling water level in the Ganga and Jamuna wells inside the Jagannath temple at least a decade back but did precious little to fix the problem, depriving thousands of devotees of their loved mahaprasad on the very first day after the Nabakalebara in the process.
Reports of the falling water levels/shortage of water in the Ganga and Jamuna wells are at least a decade old. The government had formed an expert committee to find a solution way back in 2006. Nearly a decade down the line, the committee is still looking for the elusive solution!
Keeping in mind the extra requirement of water during the Nabakalebara Yatra, the government had taken up a large project at Samanga five years ago. The project, vested with the Water Resources department, envisaged construction of ponds on 600 acres of land on either side along the Dhaudia nullah to recharge the ground water level. The idea was to recharge Puri’s ground water level and simultaneously supply drinking water to the town’s entire population.
A plan outlay of Rs 240 crore was estimated for the project. But as with everything else connected with the Nabakalebara preparations, easily among the worst organised in the last century, the project did not take off in tiem. It could start only in December last year. The delay in the project has dealt a severe blow to the Shree Mandir drying up the Ganga and Jamuna wells.
In a bid to cover up its failure, the government is now trying to blame the rain gods for the drying up of the two lifelines in the temple.
On the other hand, the expert committee that pending submission of a detailed report met some officials on Saturday and has provided some information on a preliminary basis.
Reliable sources revealed that the expert committee, which conducted an on the spot assessment of the situation in the two wells three days back, is of the view that scanty rainfall in Puri, coupled with around three times more than the normal consumption of water during the Nabakalebara has depleted ground water levels resulting in fall of water levels in Ganga and Jamuna wells.
But then it was precisely to address the increased consumption of water during the Nabakalebara that the project for recharge of ground water was taken up in the first place!
According to available information, the depth of the Ganga and Jamuna wells located inside the Shree Mandir complex is around 40 feet, which is not much compared to Bada Danda (Grand Road) level. For the last few years, water levels in these wells have failed to touch the half-way mark.
Alarmed by the decreasing water levels in these wells and the subsequent hue and cry, the government had taken up measures to recharge these wells, which the expert committee feels has proved to be ineffective.
A senior officer has said, “Puri has 448 acres of area where sweet water is available. Bore wells located in the vicinity of Shree Mandir complex where the Ganga and Jamuna wells are located are much deeper. These wells are drawing water from much deeper levels. Whatever ground water level is recharged is drawn by deep bore wells belonging to hotels etc.”
It is true that Puri has received comparatively less rainfall this year. In view of the Nabakalebara Yatra, 60 additional water bodies were created in Puri. About 1,200 tube wells were sunk. While Puri town is supplied with 27 million litres of water daily, during the Nabakalebara its use increased three-fold. Therefore, it’s quite natural that ground water level has got depleted and has deeply affected Ganga and Jamuna wells. Since recharging them is a time taking process, the expert team is learnt to be mulling on an alternative solution to fill the wells.
Sources said the expert committee, during its discussions with temple officials, has proposed mapping of drinking water in Puri town by a third party. The committee has also suggested that prohibiting the use of all bore wells and tube wells in Puri town was inevitable once water supply to all areas of the town becomes operational from the Samanga project.
This suggestion of the committee, in particular, has left the government troubled. Inquiries have now begun on why the drinking water project for Puri which was targeted to be completed before Nabakalebara could not be completed.