Rains lash Sambalpur

Even as rain since Saturday have thrown normal life out of gear in Sambalpur, it has brought cheer on the faces of  farmers. They are now confident of taking up agricultural works for rabi season.

However, there has not been much change in the water level of Hirakud reservoir which continues to be at 594.54 feet with 13.44 mm rain being recorded in the upstream. In the downstream, it was 64.55 mm. Around 2,200 cusecs of water was released in Bargarh main canal, 400 cusec in Sason canal, 30 cusec in Sambalpur distributary. There has been a dip in power generation from power houses under Hirakud project. Power generation of Power House I was 16.750 MW, while it was nil in Power House II on Monday.

Villagers come to rescue of ailing boy

Sixteen-year-old Chandrasekhar Pradhan of Kusanpuri village in Bargarh district awaits for a new life. And residents of his villagers are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that he gets one.

Chandrasekhar has been suffering from a serious disease which is yet to be diagnosed. Blood is oozing out of his mouth and anus. Though the boy has been admitted to the VSS Medical at Burla from June 5, doctors have not been able to find out what he is suffering from. In the meantime, he has been transfused 10 units of blood and referred to SCB Medical at Cuttack where he would undergo surgery.

Chandrasekhar PradhanComing from a poor background, Chandrasekhar lost his father Brushaba Pradhan four months back to diabetes. The financial condition at his home and the mental tension notwithstanding, the boy managed passed matriculation examination with first division, the results of which were declared recently. The family owned three acres of agricultural land which they had to sell off for treatment of Brushaba. When his mother and sister could not arrange money for Chandrasekhar’s treatment, the villagers decided to come to their rescue. Besides arranging funds to the tune of `7,500 to get him admitted to the VSS Medical, the villagers are also attending to him in the hospital on a rotation basis. They also donated blood that was transfused to the boy.

He would be taken to SCB Medical at Cuttack for further treatment on Monday and for that, his classmates and villagers have collected another `8,200 which will be handed over to his family.

Meanwhile, Sarpanch of Kusunpuri Surendra Bisi and Chandrasekhar’s mother Prem Shella have appealed to Good Samaritans to contribute financially towards his treatment. His sister Nirupama is studying in Class X and is also a bright student.

Odisha govt to upgrade 11 airstrips in different districts

Air connectivity across Odisha is set to get a boost with the state government proposing upgradation of the existing 11 airstrips in different districts. The plan includes installation of communication and surveillance apparatus, increasing the length of runways and construction of boundary walls, sources said.

The airstrips are located at Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, Jeypore (Koraput district), Khariar (Nuapada district), Bargarh, Phulbani, Rairangpur (Jharsuguda district), Ganjam, Balangir, Bhawanipatna and Malkangiri.

Official sources said except the airstrip at Jeypore, which will be converted into a full-fledged airport over 310 acre, the rest will be revamped and modernized. The state government had earlier proposed the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to develop the Jharsuguda airstrip into a full-fledged airport.

The government has directed chief engineer (roads) and superintending engineers of Cuttack, Sambalpur, Jeypore and Berhampur circles to prepare plans accordingly. “Following the decision on May 24, we have written to the engineers concerned to prepare the plan, design and cost estimation for the upgradation work,” said joint secretary Premananda Khuntia.

“Many of the existing airstrips don’t have boundary walls making them vulnerable to animal menace. The length of the runways would be increased to facilitate landing of big aircrafts,” said an official. The runway in most districts is less than 5000 ft. “Big aircrafts require at least 900 ft runway for landing and take-off. Besides, the airstrips should have navigation aids and control towers,” said director of Biju Patnaik Airport Sharad Kumar.

Odisha has 17 airstrips and 16 helipads. In August, 2012, the government had announced to develop five greenfield airports at Rayagada, Paradip, Dhamra, Angul and Kalinganagar in an effort to boost intra-state and inter-state civil aviation.

“Upgradation of airstrip in Odisha will help deliver emergency services faster. It was a dire need for a state like Odisha, where many tribal areas are still not well connected,” former diplomat Abasar Beuria said.

Official apathy delays project

Apathy-DelaysThere is neither any dearth of funds nor land. Yet, the six million litres per day (MLD) drinking water project for Burla NAC which was declared way back in 2006 is awaiting execution.

Sources said negligence by the Public Health and Engineering Department (PHED) has delayed the project even though coal major Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) already released first phase of funds required to take up the work. The project which includes a water treatment plant is estimated at `8.62 crore.

MCL was approached to fund the project under its corporate social responsibility by the local administration and the management accepted it. Land for the project measuring 7.62 acre was also identified to which, Government too gave its nod. MCL has so far released `3.5 crore for the first phase work, but there has been no headway in the project even after seven years. Although tenders were floated for the work, they have not been finalised for reasons best known to the PHED.

At present, 4.5 MLD water is supplied to the Burla NAC. Owing to water scarcity, road picketing for drinking water is a routine affair and people wandering on streets for water with empty pots a common sight. With the town growing by leaps and bounds every year, the project was envisaged by the local administration.

Though Sub-Divisional Officer of PHED, Burla, Bhagyadhara Sahu did not speak about reasons behind the delay in the water project, he said work order would be issued soon.

Water Rights activist Ranjan Panda faults Odisha Govt for suppplying water from Hirakud Reservoir to Industries

Water Rights activist Ranjan Panda faults Odisha Govt for supplying water from Hirakud Reservoir is toIndustries. The way they have shut down the power plant while continuing to supply water to industries is illegal, alleges Ranjan Panda, Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha.

“Hirakud dam was originally constructed for flood control. Irrigation and power generation were incidental benefits. Providing water to industries at cost of power generation is a clear cut indication of the government’s vested tilt towards the industries”, Panda alleged further.

It is to be noted that, the dam’s power generation capacity has been drastically reduced by deliberate design, more so recently because of the favouritism towards industries. And on 17th June this year, when the dam authorities stopped releasing water for power generation, illegally, they created a history. For the first time in history of the dam, the power plant was completely stopped showing shortage of water as the reason, even though the water had not reached the dead storage limit, alleged Panda.

The dam’s Dead Storage Level of 590 feet is a stage from where irrigation and power generation should be stopped. For industries, however, the dead limit is said to be 595 feet. But, while on 17th June the storage level was about 593.75, the power supply was stopped but industries continued to draw water.

Local newspaper reports confirm that the dam authorities did an act of ‘eye wash’ by stopping water to Hindalco Industries at Hirakud on 17th June. However, the plant activities resumed in a few hours only. It is reported by the newspapers that the dam authorities had to release water to Hindalco succumbing to pressure of the Secretary, Water Resources Department of Govt. of Odisha.

Other industries also continue to draw water even as Hirakud’s water is receding and no canals could be supplied water on the stipulated date of 16th. WIO condemns such illegal and anti-people, anti-farmer act of the Water Resources Department and asks them to immediately stop water supply to industries and ensure water to irrigation canals, said Panda.

Unless the water supply to industries is stopped, irrigation will drastically suffer and conflicts in the command area will grow, warned Panda.

A dry reservoir is not merely due to scanty rainfall but also because of interceptions of Mahanadi’s flow by Chhattisgarh upstream. And despite repeated urge of Water Initiatives Odisha, the governments are not yet talking properly on managing Mahanadi in an integrated basin management approach. “The governments are only talking as knee jerk measure to reduce flood devastations and not for comprehensive and coordinated management of the entire River”, alleged Panda, adding, “such temporary and half-hearted approaches would neither reduce flood vulnerabilities during rainy season nor will solve such water scarcity situations during non-monsoon periods”.

High time the governments went for a holistic management plan of Mahanadi that is people-centric, open and transparent. Further, the governments should now admit that Mahanadi is a ‘water deficit river’ and accordingly stop giving away precious water to industries beyond a limit drawn on basis of proper ecological balance analysis keeping both present and future scenario in mind, said Panda.