Four-laning of NH-6 Completed, Service Roads Still Incomplete

Piecemeal development of the four-laning work of National Highway 6 at Sambalpur-Bargarh-Luharachatti stretch along Odisha-Chhattisgarh border has turned the road into a death trap. Though service roads have been provided alongside the highway, the delay in completion of the construction work and illegal parking of vehicles on the lanes has put lives of many at risk.

Sources said as per agreement, a private construction firm is in-charge of laying service road on either side of the four lanes from Ainthapali Chowk to Remed Chowk in Sambalpur town. While the four-laning work has been completed, the construction work of the service roads has been left midway making it unusable.

What has compounded the problem is the use of the half-laid service roads to park trucks and heavy vehicles. Further, garages and automobile workshops alongside the highway use the under construction roads to repair vehicles plying on the Highway.

Garages and automobile workshops have mushroomed at Baraipali along the Highway which passes through Sambalpur town. As the highway is full of diversions, commuters prefer to take the service roads to reach their destination quickly. However, with trucks and other heavy vehicles parked on the service roads, it is a difficult task for the commuters to wade through the congested roads. With more and more vehicles using the under construction lanes by making way through the stationary trucks, the service roads have become dangerous.

As the situation stands today, unruly parking of heavy vehicles, private buses, auto-rickshaws besides encroachment by roadside vendors have made the service roads invisible to the commuters plying on the highway. Adding to the woes of commuters is the absence of lighting system alongside the highway. Though street lights have been installed on both sides, they are yet to be made operational which leads to accidents on the service roads during night.

Superintendent of Police Prateek Mohanty admitted to the problem and said the Private Bus Owners’ and Truck Owners’ Associations should ensure that heavy vehicles are not parked on the service roads and enough passage is left for commuters. Steps will be taken to free the service roads from parking, he added.

Traditional Water Bodies Dry up in Modern Growth Impact

A dry summer stares at Sambalpur with traditional water harvesting structures going dry. While these structures have in the past been a boon to Sambalpur, things have worsened in the absence of maintenance.

Known as Kata, Muda and Bandh in local parlance, these water tanks were maintained by members of Kulta community who are traditionally into farming.

Most of the 94 water tanks spread over 930.235 acres of land under Sambalpur municipal limits are filled up and encroached upon and the rest replete with filth, weeds and silt.

In the past, the town was dotted with agricultural fields and these traditional water harvesting structures along with the Hirakud dam reservoir provided water for irrigation. The increase in the population took a toll on the structures. The condition of water harvesting structures in other parts of the district is not better.

Take for instance the 170-year-old Bada Kata spread over 11.65 acres of land in Birjam village under Sohela block of Bargarh district. The water body that irrigated a large area of agricultural land nearby, today has shrunk due to heavy deposits of filth.

Rani Sagar Kata, dug up by the then zamindar of Bijepur in Bargarh district Damodar Gartia in 1821, is spread over more than 150 acres of land. There was a network of water tanks below the Kata and the water seeping into the smaller tanks was used for drinking purpose by villagers. It also provided irrigation to 239.19 acres of land and villagers carried out pisciculture.

Today, this water body is covered with wild growth and weeds. Its water holding capacity has reduced and it can now barely irrigate 30 to 40 acres of land.

At Sambalpur town, Chandan bandh of Somnath temple in Balibandha that hosted the Chandan Yatra till 1982, is a dumping ground today. Following floods in 1982, condition of the bandh started deteriorating and sans renovation and maintenance, the five-acre pond, constructed by Maharaj Balabhadra Sai, serves as a dumping yard now. Filled with weed and silt, it has turned into a passage for sewage of the town that flows into the Mahanadi.

Joba bandh in Mudipada, the largest water tank in the town, and three similar structures in the same area – Manikmunda, Deulbandh and Bhangumunda – have dried up completely.

Civic Body Apathy Leaves Sen Park in A Shambles

One of the oldest recreational hubs of Sambalpur Town, Sen Park lies in a shambles, thanks to the lackadaisical attitude of the Municipality. Spreading over three acres of land, the park has turned into a hunting ground of anti-socials as lack of maintenance on the part of the civic body is keeping people away from it.

The park got its name from Jitendra Nath Sen, the chairman of Sambalpur Municipality from 1901 to 1920 and on whose land it is situated.

The Park got a major facelift after renovation work was taken up for the first time in 2002. The new look saw people flocking the park in hundreds.

The park also became a favourite place of children after new equipment like swings, seesaws, slides and other amusement facilities were augmented on its premises. While parents took a stroll in the park, the children enjoyed the outdoor games.

However, the park lost its sheen as the municipality failed in maintaining and upkeeping the recreational hub. The civic body neither bothered to looked after the facilities that were put in place nor tried to upgrade the infrastructure.

In 2011, lights were installed in the park as part of a beautification drive. But the drive turned into a farce as majority of the light posts became defunct due to lack of watch and guard system. Soon after, the newly constructed fountains in the park stopped functioning.

Vice-president of Sen Park Surakshya Samiti (SPSS) Gokul Meher said a music system was also put in place in the Park. But today, neither the music system works nor the swings are functioning. After repeated missives to the municipality yielded no result, the members of SPSS collected money from among themselves and repaired the swings a few years back, Meher said.

Similar sentiment was echoed by secretary of SPSS Mohammad Sanaullah. He said the municipality has failed miserably to maintain and develop the park. The park is out of bounds for the residents after the sun sets as the lightposts have stopped working, he rued. “It’s high time the municipal authorities took note of the sorry state of the park. Though the Sambalpur Municipality will be upgraded into a corporation soon, the town lacks a proper recreational hub to cater to the needs of the people,” Sanaullah added.

When contacted, Executive Officer of Sambalpur Municipality Aniruddha Pradhan said beautification works are underway in the park with `5 lakh provided by the Western Odisha Development Council. The municipality is in no position to develop the park on its own as there is dearth of fund, he added.

Forest Dept Wakes up to Evict Ramgarh

The Forest department has woken up again to the problem of encroachment of Budharaja Reserve Forest (RF), the only green patch inside the town located here at the heart of Sambalpur town. Once spread over 113 acres, the Reserve Forest has reduced to 75 acres now.

The visit of the then Forest Conservator Rajeev Kumar in 2013 also failed to evoke any response.

The encroachment of the RF began in late seventies when few huts came up on the slope of RF. Gradually the slum named as Ramgarh grew while 7.17 acres of land was delineated from the RF for establishment of graveyard for Odia Baptist Christian community and to house the reservoir of Greater Sambalpur Drinking Water Project. This apart, 1.25 acres of land has been delineated for the Lord Shiva temple and another 2.5 acres for a concrete road to the hill top. Moreover, report submitted earlier by field staff of the Forest Department point to the encroachment by District Institute of Education and Training, office of the District Education Officer, office of Ground Water Testing Authority besides the Ramgarh slum and encroachment by the Christian community for the graveyard. In June 2013 the Town Ranger, S C Khuntia had said the department had made up its mind to clear the slum and free the RF. He had said that WESCO and PHED authorities will be asked to disconnect services as they were illegal with the land belonging to the Forest department.

But after failing to take any action for a year, the Divisional Forest Officer of Sambalpur Santosh Joshi said that a survey would be launched to ascertain the encroachment status. Presently, the thatched houses have been converted into houses with asbestos and RCC roof while some have constructed overhead water tanks on the roof of their house besides choking the natural water channels of the hill which pose danger to the ecosystem.

6 died in road mishap in Sambalpur district

Six persons including four school children died and eight other sustained serious injury when a van carrying them collided head on with a truck in Odisha’s Sambalpur district, police said.

The incident took place at Tikilipara chhak under the Jamankira police station of Sambalpur district. The mishap occurred at around 11 am when the school children were going to take admission at a school. The deceased have been identified as Jeebardhan Patra (26), Jitendra Das (12), Jyoti Majhi (8), Mukesh Pradhan (13), Mamata Majhi (8) and Kundru Pradhan (23).

The injured persons have been admitted in the Veer Surendra Sai medical college hospital at Burla, where their condition is stated to be critical. The van carrying around 18 people, was going to Ardabahal Ashram school, which is a tribal Welfare Residential School, in Kuchinda sub-division of the Sambalpur district from Dudhianali of Deogarh district when it collided with a grapes laden truck, which was coming from opposite side, at Tikilipara.

The local people and the police rushed to the spot and rescued those trapped inside the van. The injured were first rushed to Jamankira Community Health Center, from where they were shifted to Veer Surendra Sai medical college hospital at Burla for specialised medical attention.

“Some parents and their children were also in the van. They were going to Ardabahal for admission of their children,” said police. The bodies have been sent for autopsy. The driver of the truck reportedly fled from the spot after the accident.