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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Polavaram project on Godavari river, Neredi project on Vamsadhara river and Jhanjabati project on Jhanjabati river; These are some of the ambitious yet disputed projects of Andhra Pradesh government which greatly concerns Odisha as well. AP Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s recent visits to Odisha was aimed exactly at resolving these disputes and obtain a free pass from Odisha.

As per reports, at least 40 villages in Malkangiri will be submerged and its residents displaced if the Pollavaram project sees the dawn of completion. Similarly, Gunupur and Kashinagar of Rayagada will be washed away if the Neradi project is given a go ahead. As far as the project over Jhanjabati river is concerned, no less than 10 villages of Koraput will be displaced by this.

The locals are already up in arms over this. Kadraka Gumpha, a local of Kapaloda village said, “We will fight till death, but will never leave our village.”

A local of Kashinagar in Rayagada, Brajamohan Nayak said, “This is do or die situation for us. We can only move from here only if the government provides us compensation more than the current market value of our lands.”

Sources said, displacement of locals is not the sole concern if all these projects are cleared. This will mean that thousands of local residents of Odisha will have to suffer flood for years to come.

At a time when a high level team with top bureaucrats has already been constituted in Odisha to resolve these contentious issues including Kotia, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have raised alarm over the displacement of local tribals from bordering areas.

Lok Sabha member from Koraput, Saptagiri Ullaka said, “These projects are not at the best interest of Odisha. If materialised, flood will dominate during rains and summer will leave the locals high and dry.”

The Neradi barrage in particular has a major hurdle as far as the land acquisition is concerned. The project was mulled in 1961 by the AP government which wanted to acquire 106 acres of land from Odisha. However, the area of land required from Odisha increased to 1314 acres at a later stage, forcing Odisha to hold the process of land acquisition till today.

Apart from this, Reddy needed Odisha’s help in operationalising Bahuda, Balimela and Sileru projects.

It is pertinent to mention here that in a first in recent times, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy called on his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik on November 9 in Bhubaneswar to discuss several pending issues between the two states.

As per a joint statement issued by both the governments, several issues, including Polavaram and Janjavathi project and Kotia border dispute were discussed during the meeting.

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