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Rashmi Rekha Das

At a time when the conflict between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the distribution of water from the Mahanadi river is getting bitter by the day, another barrage being constructed by the Chhattisgarh government over the Kelo river has come to the fore. The part of the Kelo river passing through Odisha will turn completely dry if the project is implemented leading to resentment among Odisha farmers.

According to sources, the barrage being constructed on the Kelo river will affect people living in Odisha. The Chhattisgarh government has set a target to irrigate 260 hectares by this project for which Rs6.89 crore has been sanctioned.  Meanwhile, locals resented the state government’s silence on the issue.

The Kelo irrigation project covers Kharisia, Pussore and Raigarh blocks of Raigarh district and Dabhara block of Janjgir-Champa district. The barrage was inaugurated by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on June 14, 2021 and construction was started in December. 

Farmers of Neta Nagar, Nabhapali, Binjhhakot and Rengalpali areas will be highly benefitted by the project. However, people living on the lower catchment areas such as Kanakatora, Luhabaga, Amapali, Badadhara and Kusamela of Jharsuguda district will be affected by this move of Chhattisgarh government. Irrigation points of these areas have become defunct because of the Kelo irrigation project.  

On the other hand, irrigation project located at Lakhanpur in Jharsuguda district has failed to yield desired results for which as many as 100 acre land has become infertile over the years. Residents of Kanaktora, Badimal, Oithinda under Lakhanpur block completely dependent on Kelo river. 

Originated from Chhattisgarh, Kelo river has merged with Mahanadi at Lakhanpur. Farmers and fishermen of three panchayats depend on the river for their household chores and farming related activities. If the Chhatishgarh government successfully implements the irrigation project, farmers of these areas will be worst hit.

Mahendra Nayak, Sarpanch of Pithinda, said “Our areas no doubt will be affected if the Chhattisgarh government comes up with the check dam.”

BJD leader Muna Khan said, “The state government has held discussion with Chhattisgarh government a number of times and written in this regard. Chhatisgarh government should refrain from such activities.”

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