Polavaram project took off without MTA clearance: Odisha govt

Bhubaneswar: At a time when the Centre has fully backed neighbouring Andhra Pradesh on the issue of the controversial Polavaram irrigation project declaring it a national project and extending unstinted co-operation for the project construction work, the Odisha government on Thursday alleged that the project never obtained clearance from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA).

It also said that no Palli Sabhas were conducted in the areas that stand to be affected to get approval of the people as required under the law.

“No clearances have been obtained from the Union Tribal Affairs ministry for Polavaram project,” Odisha Water Resources secretary PK Jena said.

The official stated that the ‘mandatory’ palli sabhas were also not conducted in the areas likely to be submerged if the project takes off. Jena also pointed out that there are discrepancies in the Central government’s decision to give the go-ahead to the national project.

Talking to media on the State government’s stand on the project, Jena said, “Our department has submitted a report on Polavaram to the House Committee.”

Meanwhile, the assembly committee on Polavaram has sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue. The committee has requested the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to fix an appointment with the Prime Minister between December 27 and January 18.   Officials said the committee will apprise the Prime Minister about the latest position on the Polavaram issue.

Besides, the committee will request the Prime Minister’s intervention for conducting Palli Sabhas in tribal villages to be affected by the project.

Highly placed sources said the committee will have another sitting before meeting the Prime Minister to finalise the memorandum. While 6818 people, including 5916 tribals, will be displaced by the project, it will submerge 7656 hectares of land and 26 tribal villages.   While all the five Congress members had resigned from the committee alleging politicisation of the issue by the BJD, three BJP members had announced their decison to boycott all proceedings of the committee in future.

On December 17, a delegation of BJD MPs had met the PM to request his intervention to stop construction of the project by Andhra Pradesh government and withdraw the national project status given to it.