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Polavaram: Odisha govt ‘evades’ meet call

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 1: The Opposition in Odisha today accused the BJD of politicising the issue relating to construction of Polavaram multi-purpose project in Andhra Pradesh.

Congress legislature party leader Bhupinder Singh and his BJP counterpart K.V. Singhdeo said they had suggested chief minister Naveen Patnaik to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the effects of Polavaram project on Odisha.

“We had also offered to support if any official resolution is moved in the House on the issue. But the chief minister has evaded our suggestion,” said Singh, adding that the BJD instead was indulging in “cheap gimmicks”.

“The chief minister should stop shedding crocodile tears and convene an all-party meet,” said BJP leader K.V. Singhdeo.

“The Naveen Patnaik government lacks seriousness and the BJD is trying to rake up the issue just for political gains,” said Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan while turning the heat on some BJD members who accused the Congress-led UPA government of “conniving” with Andhra Pradesh.

The BJD had staged a rally on the Polavaram issue at Motu in Malkangiri district on August 27 in protest against the role of the UPA government and the Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh government.

The two neighbouring states are locked in a legal battle over the project, which proposes to irrigate 3,14,718 hectares in Andhra Pradesh, besides generating 960MW of power.

Odisha has challenged the project in the Supreme Court stating that vast areas in bordering Malkangiri district would be submerged if the project comes up.

Harichandan said the Odisha government had not made any serious attempt to assess how many villages and how much areas would be submerged by the proposed project. The chief minister, who holds the water resources portfolio, had recently declined to give any details while responding to a question asked by Chitrakonda MLA Mamata Madhi.

He recalled that Andhra Pradesh government had earlier deposited Rs 75,000 with the Odisha State Pollution Control Board for conducting a public hearing in the affected villages. But the government did not show any interest.

The Gopalkrishnan Committee had in its report stated that there was no fault in the technical design of the proposed dam, said the Congress leader, adding that Union water resources minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had assured that Odisha would not be affected by the project.

Stating that Polavaram dam was not a new project, Harichandan said the inter-state Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal had fixed the dam’s height at 145ft. However, an inter-state agreement was signed in April, 1978, agreeing for increasing the dam height to 150ft. Odisha, then ruled by the Janata Party (BJD was an offshoot of it), was a signatory to the agreement, he said.

BJD, which was now making a hue and cry over the project, went to the Supreme Court complaining about the project only in 2007, said the Congress leader.

Raising the issue during zero hour today, BJD MLA Pradeep Maharathy said while the project would irrigate 2.9 lakh hectares of land in Andhra Pradesh, it would submerge seven tribal villages and 1,026 hectares of agricultural land in Odisha.

“The BJD will continue its fight and will not spare an inch,” he said.