A fresh controversy has erupted over the contentious mega drinking water project on Kharasrota River at Barunadiha under Rajkanika tehsil of Kendrapara district after an RTI query revealed that no land has been acquired by the government for the Rs 892 crore project.
The information given by the office of the district collector and magistrate, Kendrapara in response to an RTI application filed by one Pratap Chandra Mohanty stated that land acquisition for the project has not been carried out yet.
“The land for mega drinking water project on Kharasrota River under Rajkanika tehsil of Kendrapara district and under Chandbali tehsil of Bhadrak district has not been acquired by the undersigned (land acquisition officer). So the required information could not be supplied,” read the RTI reply.
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The RTI information has exposed the alleged stubborn attitude of the State government towards the execution of the project in violation of guidelines despite fierce protest by the locals.
Earlier, the Odisha government had claimed to have conducted an environmental and social impact study for the Kharasrota project.
However, another RTI query revealed that the (Environmental Impact Assessment) EIA study for execution of the project was carried out by Megha Engineers and Infrastructure Ltd, Hyderabad and the same report was vetted by Professor Shashidhar of IIT Hyderabad. It clarified that the Odisha government did not request IIT Hyderabad for any EIA study.
“I had filed an RTI application seeking information from IIT Hyderabad. The institute clearly informed that Megha Engineers and Infrastructure Ltd who is the executing agency of the project carried out the study of 122-page report and IIT Hyderabad only vetted which means made the corrections,” said Pratap Mohanty, convenor of Kendrapara Zilla Suchana Adhikar Abhiyan.
“On the other hand, Kendrapara district collectorate supplied information to me that no land has been acquired for the project so far,” he added.
When asked, Kendrapara Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) executive engineer Basant Kumar Nayak feigned ignorance over the land acquisition.
According to sources, the ownership of the 70 decimal land where the project is being executed is recorded in the name of mega drinking water project while one Sheikh Hussein Bashah is named as marfatdar (trustee).
The display board at the project site says that it will supply water to 91 saline affected GPs of Chandbali, Tihidi, Basudevpur and Dhamnagar blocks of Bhadrak.
While the tender process for the project was completed two years ago, it is facing fierce protest from the Kharasrota Banchao Sangram Samiti which alleged that the project would create water shortage in the area during summer and affect farming.
“This is not a government project, but a private one. The owner of a private company has bought some land at Barunadiha and is executing the project. The government has not acquired the land,” alleged Devendra Sharma, advisor to Kharasrota Banchao Sangram Samiti.
Responding to the allegations, BJD MLA Pratap Deb said no land acquisition is required for the project.
“This is not a big industry which requires 50 to 100 acres of land. A maximum of three acres of land is enough for the project to supply safe drinking water to the houses of the people,” Deb said. Earlier, Protestors clashed with the police while they were holding a rally to protest against the proposed drinking water project on Kharasrota river.