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Panic grips riverside villages as embankment caves in

Cuttack: Panic gripped riverside villages located near Mahanadi on the eastern limits of Cuttack city when a large patch of river embankment gave way during the first showers of monsoon.

The breach in the embankment appeared on Wednesday as it was made fragile due to unauthorised digging by a private company which is laying water pipes here affecting the safety of the embankment and that of the local residents.

"If this has happened to the embankment after only one shower this season, we are afraid the situation would be catastrophic when the river would be in spate in a while," said anguished villager Sukanta Panda.

Residents of Kanheipur, Bhadimul, Keshpur and Bidyadharpur along with leper settlements of Gandhipally and Nehrupally under Chauliaganj police station here are a worried lot ever since the embankment was dug up for laying pipelines.

"Despite our protests before the district administration and local legislator, the company engaged continues to weaken the embankment," alleged another villager from Bhadimul adding that the villagers have no other alternative but to seek legal recourse for their safety.

Mahanadi Bachao Andolana (MBA), which is opposing diversion of river water for industrial purposes in the state has taken up cudgels on behalf of the villagers and has warned that they would approach the Orissa High Court soon through a PIL seeking the court`s intervention as the district administration as well as the local representative have not bothered about the concern of the villagers.

Meanwhile, Opposition Congress too has taken up the issue alleging that the local administration and the people`s representative are hand-in-glove with the company laying pipelines along the embankment.

"We have no other option but to take the law onto our hands," said Cuttack district Congress president Prakash Behera after visiting the spot.

Local legislator Pravat Ranjan Biswal of BJD had gone ahead with laying the foundation stone for strengthening the embankment in April this year to the dismay of locals when the officials of the private company joined the occasion as guests, sources said.

"But more than two months after the foundation stone laying ceremony, the tender is yet to be finalised while instead of strengthening the embankment by the government, the private company is continuing its activities here," alleges local MBA leader Dillip Mallick.

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