By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, May 12, 2018: Odisha government on Saturday announced to construct at least seven barrages in the downstream of the Mahanadi River at a time when it is at loggerhead with Chhattisgarh over the sharing of waters of the Mahanadi.

The dispute between two states is set to become a major issue in the coming polls. While Chhattisgarh is due to go the polls at the end of this year, the Assembly election in Odisha will be held along with the Lok Sabha election next year. Although a tribunal has been constituted to adjudicate the dispute, the Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha and the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Chhattisgarh are refusing to budge.

Minister for water resources Niranjan Pujari announced the state government’s plan at a media conference after chief minister reviewed the achievements of the department at the state secretariat. The master plan includes construction of seven barrages in the downstream of Mahanadi River.

Besides, 22 other projects would also be constructed on the tributaries and distributaries of the Mahanadi, he added saying, “The government is working on a roadmap and a master plan to put a check on the water of Mahanadi that is getting drained into the sea by constructing barrages and anicuts downstream of the river.”

However, the minister did not divulge details about the master plan as the dispute with Chhattisgarh is pending before the tribunal nor did he spell out clearly about budgetary provisions.

The state government is understood to be mulling over setting up of the projects including barrages and anicuts at Boudh, Sambalpur, Subarnapur and Munduli. The projects would be crucial in meeting drinking water, irrigation and other requirements, sources added.

However, the state government’s decision to construct seven barrages on Mahanadi has come as a surprise as it had dropped a proposal to construct a barrage at Sindhol in Sonepur district in 2011 apprehending objection by locals.

An estimated 52 per cent of Mahanadi water is flowing down to the Bay of Bengal,

Mr. Patnaik, who is scheduled to launch the second phase of his party’s ‘Save Mahanadi’ agitation from May 16, has criticised the BJP government at the Centre and in Chhattisgarh for choking the flow of water to Odisha.

The Opposition Congress, too, has announced a movement to protest against the unilateral construction of barrages across the Mahanadi. The BJP in Odisha has been blaming both the BJD and the Congress for exploiting the issue for political gains.

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