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Demand for technical body on Mahanadi

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: The Mahanadi Banchao Andolan, an organisation fighting for farmers’ rights, today demanded constitution of an independent technical body to study the flow and water use of various rivers.

The organisation staged a dharna today outside the Odisha Assembly.

The Odisha government today said 11 industries had been permitted to draw water from the Mahanadi river.

Incidentally, chief minister Naveen Patnaik admitted that industrial units, which are drawing water from the Hirakud reservoir, owed water rent to the tune of Rs 194.71 crore during the period between April 2008 and March 2012.

“This shows the pro-industry attitude of the government, which is shedding crocodile tears for the farmers. While the state government is issuing notice to small farmers, it has closed its eyes to big industrial defaulters,” said leader of the Mahanadi Banchao Andolan Bijay Mohapatra.

Former irrigation minister Mohapatra said the total outstanding water rent payable by the industrial water users could touch Rs 2,000 crore.

Opposing indiscriminate use of river water by the industries at the cost agriculture and irrigation, he said: “It’s high time that the government constituted an independent body to study the water flow and fix quota for agriculture and industries.”

He demanded formulation of a comprehensive water policy dealing with drinking water, irrigation and industrial use of water in Odisha.

Not only the Mahanadi, but also other rivers of Odisha, too, should come under the purview of the study. Pending the study, the government must stop giving water to industrial units, said Mohapatra.

Odisha has been witnessing a series of farmer agitations in the Mahanadi river basin over the recent years regarding the water issue. While farmers of western Odisha have been protesting against allocation of water to industries from the Hirakud reservoir, the Mahanadi Banchao Andolan has been fighting for “judicious distribution” of the Mahanadi water.

The Mahanadi Banchao Andolan had mobilised public opinion in the Cuttack city against allocation of water to Posco steel plant and other projects from the Mahanadi river system.