Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Ahead of peak summer, the Mahanadi river water dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh has raised its head with the neighbouring state apparently adopting measures to conserve water upstream.

As per sources, all the 66 gates of Chhattisgarh’s Kalma barrage, situated along the border of Jharsuguda district, have been shut down. Not a single drop of water is coming to Hirakud reservoir and there has been a significant dip in the water level of the dam.

As a result, the flow of the river has slowed down and it has completely dried up at several places like Subarnapur, Nayagarh and Boudh. 

Apart from a few gorges, only sand and rocks are visible in most of the places along the river bed. It seems as if the biggest river in Odisha, the Mahanadi is struggling for its survival during the scorching summer.

As the water level has dipped in the upper catchment areas, power generation and irrigation have been severely affected.

With a harsh summer ahead, objections have been raised over the move by Chhattisgarh government to close all the gates of Mahanadi river in upper catchment areas.

Several villagers and farmers’ organizations in lower catchment areas of Odisha alleged that they have been suffering due to the absence of water since the last few years. The river bed has almost dried up. In such a situation, several local farmers, who have started cultivation, have been left in the lurch.

“Chhattisgarh government is not paying heed to the genuine demands of people of bordering areas of Jharsuguda to open its barrages. Many people in Odisha are largely dependent on Mahanadi river water. People in the State are facing a lot of problem in agriculture and facing a severe water crisis,” said a farmers’ leader.

“Chhattisgarh government has done illegal work by stopping the natural flow of Mahanadi. Not a single drop of water is entering Hirakud reservoir. As a result, fishermen in the areas, farmers, and all the people are facing a severe water crisis. Their livelihood is at stake. Whereas in the rainy season, the neighbouring state releases surplus water through their barrages causing severe flood situation in Odisha,” rues another farmer leader.