By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, August 27, 2021: Even as water conservationist Rajendra Singh openly expressed solidarity with agitators protesting a water project in Odisha, saying such initiatives could “prove disastrous in future”, an environmental activist, on hunger strike since August 10, to protest a proposal to divert water from the river Kharosotra in Odisha’s Kendrapara district, was forcibly taken away to the government hospital at Cuttack on August 25.

The protester Srikanta Nayak is part of a local non-profit called Sambhabana, which is part of the movement against the project.

He was removed by officials from his protest site August 15 and shifted to the district headquarters hospital as his condition deteriorated. But he refused to take any food and continued the hunger strike.

Nayak is currently in the intensive care unit (ICU), sources have said. Nayak, 45, had launched a protest August 10 near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Kendrapara.

The government backed Rs 754-crore mega drinking project envisages diverting water from the Kharosotra in Kendrapara district to 0.5 million people in neighbouring Bhadrak district.The would-be beneficiaries of the project live in 91 Gram Panchayats across four blocks in Bhadrak. The water is being diverted for drinking purposes.

But locals claimed the project will destroy agriculture in 220 villages on the river as it will dry up. Some 40 lakh people live in these villages spread across the Aul and Rajkanika blocks of Kendrapara.

Earlier on Tuesday, Singh visited the banks of Kharasrota in Kendrapara’s Rajkanika block and opposed the district administration’s move to divert river water for piped supply to neighbouring Bhadrak. Expressing solidarity with a movement spearheaded by local outfit Kharasrota Bachao Sangram Samiti, he said at a public meeting in Achutapur, “Such projects could prove disastrous in future.”

Mr Singh alleged that the government was turning a blind eye to the people’s demand for water, while it was facilitating the mega industries to guzzle more water and generate pollution.

“The people of the neighbouring district need water. But diverting water from the Kharasrota to those areas is not the solution. The natural flow of the rivers should be protected,” Mr Singh said.

He underlined that diversion of water from an already-deficient river basin would lead to the ingress of seawater upstream and harm the district’s agricultural activities.

“The riverside villagers will become more vulnerable to saline intrusion due to the diversion of sweet water from the river for this mega drinking water project,” Mr Singh said.

There have been agitations across Kendrapara district over the past fortnight. Section 144 of CrPC has been clamped in Rajkanika’s three gram panchayats till October 8 to douse the simmering protest.

The proposed project aims to provide safe drinking water to villages in Bhadrak district, where the groundwater table is heavily saline. The project requires 105 million litres of water per day and less than four per cent of the water inflow of the river will be diverted for the mega project, officials had said.

The Odisha government has filed 1,000 cases and arrested 24 people who ransacked a project to divert water from the Kharosotra River.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of