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Dilip Kumar

Cuttack: The proposed Baliyatra Riverfront Improvement (BARFI) project and expansion of SCB Medical College and Hospital on the land reclaimed from Mahanadi riverbed at Cuttack have reached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) over alleged violation of environmental norms.

Environmentalists have knocked the doors of the green court raising serious concerns over the 'illegal' land reclaiming from the river. They alleged that the works on the riverbed for projects like BARFI and SCB expansion are violating the directives of the green tribunal passed in an earlier case involving the construction of a Hanuman temple on the riverbed at Ratilo near Salipur in the district.

A petition was filed in the NGT opposing the construction the temple on the riverbed. In its order, the tribunal had termed such construction illegal and barred any such works on riverbed, terming it as ‘no development zone’.

In the line of the petition filed in the green court over the construction of temple, a similar plea has been filed in the tribunal protesting land reclaiming from the river for taking up government projects.

"The proposed projects on the Mahanadi river bed are violating green norms. The ongoing works on the riverbed are also violating the directive of NGT in a similar case (Hanuman Temple construction case). We have already filed an application against such constructions in the green court in August last year and are waiting for its decision," said environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty.

On the other hand, Cuttack MP Bhartruhari Mahatab said that no work has been carried out illegally.

"The land reclaiming from river Mahanadi is being carried out following the decision of Orissa High Court. To make the river deeper, the sand is being dug out from Choudwar side and used the same in the opposite side to reclaim land for government projects. Someone has filed a petition against such construction in Kolkata bench of NGT. The State government will respond to the petition at right time," Mahatab added.

Meanwhile, residents of Choudwar have raised apprehension of the river changing its direction as the land is being reclaimed from the river from city side. Locals demanded that the government should raise the height of the river embankment near Choudwar.

"If the government is reclaiming land from the river from city side, the height of the embankment near Choudwar should also be raised. We will meet the Collector and local tehsildar soon if the government doesn't take any measure to increase height of the river embankment," said Bhimsen Biswal, a resident of Choudwar.

The state government has planned to transform the state-run SCB Medical College and Hospital into an “AIIMS Plus” institute with an expenditure of Rs 1000 crore. The government is reclaiming the river bed to construct the world class health institute on whopping 175 acres land on the riverbed. The government has aimed at completing the project by 2024.

Similarly, the government has undertaken the BARFI project for beautification of Mahanadi riverfront. The project is taken up to bring transformation of the 420 acres land being reclaimed on Mahanadi river bank.

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