Is Gurupriya Bridge under threat of water released from Balimela Dam?

Malkangiri: No sooner than water was released from Balimela dam on Thursday, allegations were rife about the faulty design of the newly inaugurated Gurupriya bridge that connects the cut off areas of Malkangiri district. Reason, owing to the low height of the bridge, water from the dam was released much before it reached the danger mark.

As per reports, the maximum level of water storage capacity of Balimela Dam stands at 1518 ft. Every year, water is  released at 1517 ft, but the authorities, after the inauguration of Gurupriya, released excess water through two sluice gates of the dam when water level stood only at 1512 ft. Even then,  this level touched the guarder of the bridge and a slight increase in water level for 4-5 ft might, it is apprehended, even cross the guarder level posing threat to the bridge.

However, allaying all such fears, Executive Engineer of the Balimela Dam Project Bijaya Kumar Kalta informed that the decision to release water from the gates of the dam was taken in order to regulate the water level because of excess water coming from the upper catchment areas.

Kalta said, “We had taken the decision to release water as soon as it reached the permissible limit as per a discussion based on the stats maintained last year. And the water being released has no relation with Gurupriya, whatsoever.”

However, it is further alleged that the water level of the Dam was not taken into account during the design planning of the bridge.

Sources said people in the cut-off areas are now a worried lot to cross the Gurupriya Setu with water nearing its guarder while people in low-lying areas have also raised concerns that their villages might get inundated due to release of water during heavy rains.

On the flip side, if water level of the dam is fixed at 1512 ft instead of 1517 ft, it may adversely affect the irrigation and electricity production during summer season.

Moreover, sources claimed the neighbouring low-lying areas in Andhra Pradesh will hugely benefit if the water level is not maintained according to the maximum storage capacity of the dam.

Meanwhile, Executive Engineer of the Works Department, Arun Sahoo said, “The top level of water in the dam has been fixed at 1516.9 ft. The water level will not rise above that as that is the maximum capacity of the reservoir.”

“The height of the bridge is a little low which is why the dam authority had to release water when the level reached 1512 ft failing which the bridge would have got affected. This is highly condemnable and needs a high-level probe,” alleged Ram Pattnayak, a local.