Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: As Odisha is eagerly waiting for a resolution in the Mahanadi water dispute, Chhattisgarh seems to be planning more projects to further throttle the water flow of the river.

Data furnished by the Centre in the Rajya Sabha has not only raised doubts over an amicable solution in the long-standing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh, but it also has sparked concerns over the survival of the lower reaches of Mahanadi in Odisha.

According to the data presented by the Centre, Chhattisgarh, which has already constructed around 2365 projects on the upstream of Mahanadi River, is planning to construct 1802 more such water retention projects on the river.

Amid concerns already being flagged over the water flow in Odisha, the proposals for more projects by the neighboring State has now raised questions whether such developments would intensify water crisis in Odisha.

On one hand while the dispute is still subjudice before a tribunal, these revelations have now stroked political controversy and blame game in Odisha.

“The situation is extremely sensitive and detrimental to the welfare of the State, so the Centre should immediately withhold the projects which are yet to be constructed,” said BJD Rajya Sabha member, Prasanna Acharya.

Similarly Congress MLA Tara Bahinipati fumed at the Centre and threatened severe protests over the issue.

“If the projects become a reality, Odisha will not get a single drop of water from Mahanadi. In case, the Centre does not take any action to stop the projects, the Congress will protest,” said Bahinipati.

BJP MP Suresh Pujari however, criticized the State government saying that it is quite a shame that in the last 20 years, Odisha government failed to tackle the issue.

“Firstly it is yet to construct any project to conserve water in the lower reaches of Mahanadi and secondly it was unable to halt Chhattisgarh’s projects in all these years. Now they are trying to reap political benefits by raking up the issue," said Pujari.

Moreover, the Centre has informed the Upper House that the Arpa-Bhaisajhar barrage project, which is the bone of contention between Odisha and Chhattisgarh, was approved by the Technical Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Jal Shakti on September 30, 2016.

 The new projects by the neighbouring state will drastically reduce the summer water inflow in the river. Even during floods, if they (Chhattisgarh) trigger uncontrolled discharge of water, that too will pose danger-

Ramesh Tripathy, former Chief Engineer of Water Resources department, Odisha.

Amid all this, sources said, the dispute with Chhattisgarh has now spurred the Odisha government to take the issue seriously and if reports are to be believed, the government is carrying out a survey and inspection of around 30 rivers flowing through the State for construction of reservoirs.

State Water Resources Minister Raghunandan Das said the government is mulling to create projects like barrages and dams, but they are in a planning stage.