Mob attack in Odisha drinking water project office against the move to divert river water to neighbouring district

Kendrapara: A mob defied prohibitory orders in Odisha's Kendrapara district on Thursday and went on a rampage at a government project of...


Kendrapara: A mob defied prohibitory orders in Odisha's Kendrapara district on Thursday and went on a rampage at a government project office in protest against the administration's move to divert river water for supplying piped water to a neighbouring district, a police officer said.

Despite the presence of 16 platoons of armed police, the mob ran amok and vandalised temporary sheds of the project at Rajkanika block damaging earthmovers, and other vehicles, according to eyewitness accounts.

The mega project will provide safe drinking water to villages in Bhadrak district, where the groundwater table is heavily salinated, according to officials of the Rural Water and Sanitation Scheme (RWSS).

Residents of Rajkanika, 125 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, have been demanding immediate scrapping of the Rs 892-crore project that will draw water from the Kharasrota river. They expressed apprehension that it would be detrimental to the interest of people living in riverside villages.

Protesters resorted to violence, vandalised the drinking water project office, and damaged vehicles and machinery, Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Sandhyarani Beuria said.

The mob pelted stones and bricks at the police as they tried to chase the troublemakers. The acts of vandalism lasted for about an hour in the afternoon, the SDPO said.

The situation is now tense, but under control, Beuria said.

The police acted in utmost restraint despite provocation, the police officer said.

No untoward incident has been reported as security has been stepped up with police reinforcement, she said. The Kendrapara district administration had imposed prohibitory orders on Tuesday in three village panchayats -- Balakati, Bharigada, and Barunadiha -- under Rajkanika block for two months to douse the simmering protest over the drinking water project.

Kendrapara sub-collector Niranjan Behera had asserted that the project would not have any adverse effect on the irrigation needs of people.

Debendra Sharma, the former Congress MLA of Aul who is spearheading the movement against the drinking water project, said it was a spontaneous outburst by the locals.

People are intent on safeguarding their interest. The project will dry up the water sources and agriculture operations in these parts will take a severe beating, Sharma said.

He added that it would have been better on part of the state government to build an in-stream barrage over the Kharasrota river and supply the water to Bhadrak district.

We have nothing against the people living in the neighbouring areas. But the supply of drinking water to Bhadrak should not be at the cost of farmers in Rajkanika, he said.

The move would also have adverse effects on the ecosystem of Bhitarkanika national park -- home of the endangered saltwater crocodiles -- as its water bodies are interconnected with the river, he added.

Gayadhar Dhal, a representative of a farmers' outfit, said the diversion would lead to the depletion of water levels in the Kharasrota.

People of the region are entirely dependent upon agriculture. The mega project will pose a threat to agrarian activities. There will be a severe shortage of water for agriculture requirements, Dhal said.

More than 6 lakh people in 91 gram panchayats of Chandbali, Tihidi, Dhamnagar, and Basudevpur blocks will have access to safe and clean drinking water once the project is implemented, RWSS officials said.

-News Feed

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Local Glob: Mob attack in Odisha drinking water project office against the move to divert river water to neighbouring district
Mob attack in Odisha drinking water project office against the move to divert river water to neighbouring district
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