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Subadh Kumar Nayak

Berhampur: The demolition of the lone solar fish-drying project in Gopalpur of Ganjam district for production of dry fish (sukhua) has sparked resentment among local fisherwomen. The project reportedly started back in 2014 as part of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) at a cost of Rs 3.5 crore with an aim to provide sustainable livelihood to fisherwomen self-help groups. However, it remained neglected and subsequently demolished by the civic body now.

According to sources, Gopalur NAC officials demolished the solar fish-drying project claiming that a new project would be launched at the spot under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Protesting the demolition, local fisherwomen have been demanding to functionalise the project once again. “We were so happy when the project was launched here. Initially we were told that Rs 7.5 lakh would be given to each SHG but we did not get a single penny. Now they have demolished the infrastructure to shut down the project. We are not going to allow them to begin a new project here. We want re-launch of the solar fish-drying project,” said Gapama, a fisherwoman, while speaking to OTV.

B. Parbati Ama, another local woman, said, “We gave our land after an official of the fishery department persuaded our SHG group to begin the solar fish-drying project to produce dry fish. Now they are planning another project after demolishing it. The local administration says that the land belongs to them. However, we have all the documents with us. We will submit the documents to them only if they give us the loss which we have incurred till now. They should provide us a source of income for our survival.”

The BJP also protested the demolition drive alleging mismanagement of central funds. “Rs 3.5 crore was spent for the project which did not work even for a single day. But was there any investigation to find out why the project remained neglected and why no one took up the responsibility to look after it?” questioned Kanhu Charan Pati, president of Ganjam district unit of BJP.

“Now the aim of the local administration to begin a new project on the spot under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Project is nothing but to siphon central money which we condemn,” Pati added.

Berhampur Sub-Collector Shinde Dattatreya Bhausaheb, on the other hand, claimed that the project is not useful anymore. Besides, the SHG which began the project also does not exist now. “We demolished the infrastructure as some local anti-socials have taken over it,” Bhausaheb said.

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