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Odishatv Bureau

Malkangiri: After 6 long decades, several cut-off areas are finally able to receive their share of development. The Gurupriya Bridge in Chitrakonda, which was inaugurated by CM Naveen Patnaik in July this year, is now enabling residents to access PDS while emergency services like ambulance can now reach these areas without any hassles. Buses have also started running improving mobility of the people in these cut-off areas.

"We had to use dirty water for drinking and bathing. Now that they are digging tube wells, we can access clean water," said Damu Khilo, a resident.

To combat the water crisis, 100 tube wells have been dug in the first phase, informed sources adding that in the coming days, water supply and connectivity will be extended to other villages.

"As far as the road connectivity is good enough for our machineries to reach, we will dig tube wells in those areas," said Manoj Nayak, assistant engineer, Water and Sanitation department.

"Plans to build roads for interconnecting the villages are also underway", he added.

Read more: Gurupriya bridge controversy: Forest dept serves notice to construction agency 

The 910-metre bridge is expected to resolve all the problems of communication for around 30,000 people of nearly 150 villages in the cut-off regions in and around Kalimela and Chitrakonda reservoirs.

The areas were cut-off because of poorly planned irrigation projects at Machhkund in the 1960s and particularly the Balimela Hydro Power Project in 1972. The reservoirs created for the power project left thousands isolated, forcing them to depend on boats to travel to other districts in the state.

As a result, trade, economy and development could not reach these communities. The isolation of the areas proved to be a safe haven for Maoists to spread in these areas. Threatened by the development, Maoists tried their best to obstruct the construction of this bridge.

Despite several delays, the bridge was finally completed at a cost of around Rs 172.58 crore. Its foundation stone was first laid by former Chief Minister JB Patnaik in 1982 and construction had begun in 1986. But due to several attempts by Maoists to disrupt its construction, engineering challenges and government inefficiency, the construction was stalled. Again in 2000, CM Naveen laid the foundation stone for the bridge.

Even now, only 3 out of 8 panchayats from the cut-off areas are able to avail the advantages of the bridge. Another 5 panchayats are still isolated, relying on boats to travel as they are perennially surrounded by water channels.

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