Balasore, May 8: A century-old water channel, popularly known as Coast Canal between Bengal and Odisha, is facing neglect of the authorities.
The construction of Odisha Coast Canal started during 1880-81 to protect people from acute famine conditions. The canal, built for Rs 36 lakh, was renovated in 1888.
Apart from providing relief to the state’s famine-struck people during Nanka Durvikhya (a famine), it proved to be a boon for undivided Balasore for opening up new trade, transport and communication routes.
The canal runs alongside the coast varying from 3km to 16km from coastline even after years of neglect. A 16-km stretch between Nusharrbad and Bhograi lock is still navigable and over 500 acres avail irrigation because of the canal.
It connects the Hoogly river at Geonkhali, 72km from Calcutta with the Matai river at Charbatia near Bhadrak. Its length in the state is 147.2km and is divided into four ranges. The importance of the canal apparently lessened after opening of rail links between Howrah and Cuttack via Balasore towards 1897. The Odisha Coast Canal, despite having multiple benefits, is a unique heritage site of the British era, but it lies without any utility for years at a time when stress is given for revival of inland water channels.
Till date, all the plans or proposals made by the state water resources department have been confined to paper works only. “The canal has been lying defunct for years. No sincere effort has been taken either by the state or the central government to revive the channel,” said Jayanta Das, a local environment activist.
Because of lack of maintenance and dredging, the canal began filling up and slowly turned into an abandoned one. “The revival of the canal would create a potential source for irrigation. Further, it would help promote fresh water pisciculture,” said Bhaskar Jena, a local resident.
The local people also said the revived canal could provide an alternative mode of communication for the people of Balasore and Bhadrak and would help protect the countryside villages from high tides during cyclones and saline water ingress.
The department executive engineer said the proposals, which had been sent to the Centre, never got a response.
“Several plans and proposals have been sent to the Centre for approval and sanction of funds, but no avail,” said executive engineer Pranabandhu Panda.
“About Rs 6 crore would be enough to clear the channel. Further, it can be maintained for the purpose of navigation. But unfortunately, the department has never received any funds for the same,” he said.
District collector Akhil Bihari Ota said: “Subarnarekha port is likely to come up at Chaumukh, Baliapal soon and the port authorities, under their own initiative, are planning the canal’s revival to facilitate transportation.”