Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Belpahar, Apr 23:
Alarming levels of pollution, unrestricted drawal of water and proposed construction of barrages on the upper catchment of Mahanadi river are going to pose a serious threat to this premier river in Odisha and the people living along it, experts said.
It may be noted that construction of a barrage at Zero Point area in the upper catchment of Mahanadi for a mega thermal power project being set up by the NTPC at Lara on the Odisha-Chhattisgarh border is currently underway. Besides, the Chhattisgarh government has signed MoUs for 49 mega power projects for which the Mahanadi would be the obvious source of water.
Construction of five mega barrages on a stretch of 150 km on the upper catchment of Hirakud reservoir also poses its own challenge to flow of water in the river.
The Chhattisgarh government has an ambitious target to produce 50,000 MW by setting up of thermal power units in three districts. It has allowed the companies to draw water from Mahanadi.
A recent survey report by a Delhi-based private organisation has said the Chhattisgarh government has set a target of thermal power generation of 20,489 MW from 23 power projects in Raigarh district and 27,873 MW from 26 projects in Janjgir-Champa district.
While these projects would require 28.80 lakh cusecs of water for their plants, there are several power companies having power generation under 500 MW which would also depend on Mahanadi water to run their plants.
The report has also said that the Chhattisgarh government, prior to giving permission to these power companies, has not considered the future of the Mahanadi and the Hirakud reservoir.
Acting on the report, the Jana Chetana Manch in Raigarh district in Chhattisgarh has moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) seeking its intervention in the matter at the earliest.
The Chhattisgarh government has also signed MoU with JSW Energy to set up a mega thermal power project at Kukurda. Sources said the company would lay a 100-km pipeline to draw water from Mahanadi, which would considerably bring down the velocity of the river current.
As hydro power generation of the Hirakud dam would be seriously affaected due to excess drawal of water from the river, the dam authorities will have no other way but to conserve rainwater in the reservoir to sustain power generation.
With the velocity of the river current having become one-fourth at present, downstream areas of Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts are facing an acute shortage of water for irrigation as a number of industries in these districts are reportedly drawing about 250 cusecs of water from the river everyday.