Odishatv Bureau

Jharsuguda: After unilateral construction of dams across Mahanadi river, Chhattisgarh is now allegedly encroaching land in Odisha. Villagers of at least six gram panchayats in Jharsuguda district have alleged that the construction of rail line and buffer zone in the under construction plant of National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) at Lara on the Chhattisgarh-Odisha border is illegal.

The villagers have alleged that the construction was initiated without mandatory public hearing. "We had earlier brought allegations against NTPC but the district administration paid no heed to our request. If negligence is shown in the current situation, after losing our river, we will lose land too," said a villager Basu Kaliari.

Following the allegation, Jharsuguda Collector Bibhuti Bhusan Patnaik reached the spot and reviewed the situation. He further instructed the Lakhanpur Tehsildar to identify the encroached land.

"After the allegations we reached the spot and found they are constructing the rail line on the other side of the pillar post but villagers allege that the pillar posts were set up inside Odisha border during the construction of boundary of the plant. The Tehsildar will conduct measurement of the area and apprise the government about it," said Patnaik.

It is worthwhile to mention that a fact finding committee of the Water Initiative Odisha (WIO) in 2014 had found that the NTPC plant would have a devastating impact on the Mahanadi, local ecology and people’s livelihoods of the six gram panchayats.

WIO had also conducted an alternative public hearing as the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) had not conducted the mandatory public hearing in Odisha despite of clear evidence of the plant's impact. About a hundred people representing the 12 GPs of Jharsuguda district poured out their grievances in the alternative public hearing.

Even if the hearing concluded with a resolution to pressurise the State Government to take action on the issue and scrap the plant, no action regarding this has been taken till date.