BJD MLAs on their way to submit memorandum against the Polavaram project to the governor in Bhubaneswar on Monday. Picture by Ashwinee Pati
Bhubaneswar, July 14: The BJD, faced with the criticism of going soft over the Polavaram irrigation project of Andhra Pradesh, today stalled the Assembly proceedings and observed a shutdown in undivided Koraput district.
In a memorandum, addressed to the President, the BJD urged the Centre to relook at the project design to avoid submergence of large areas of the state. The memorandum was submitted to governor S.C. Jamir. Several ministers, led by Debi Prasad Mishra, sat on a dharna outside the Assembly premises and later met the governor.
“We will not allow submergence of tribal villages of the state. We are opposing the move to increase the dam height. The authorities have not taken the mandatory consent of local tribal people before undertaking the project,” said industries minister Mishra.
The Congress and the BJP, however, criticised the BJD government for its failure to protect the state’s interest. Opposition leader Narasingha Mishra said the BJD MLAs had staged the protest to avoid an adjournment motion on the sale of kidneys in the state.
BJP leader Basant Kumar Panda said that while the state government was spending crores of rupees in the Supreme Court to avoid a CBI probe in the mining scam, it is not pursuing the Polavaram case in the apex court with that seriousness.
The Polavaram project has been a contentious issue with the state opposing it on the ground that it would inundate several areas of Malkangir district.
On July 11, the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment Bill) was passed in the Lok Sabha, paving the way for construction of the project over the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh. The bill sought to increase the proposed dam’s height.
“This was done arbitrarily without taking the Odisha government into confidence — which violates the Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal award and not conforming to the national standards and norms,” said the memorandum presented to the governor.
“The clearances were given by the Central Water Commission without examining whether the project is in accordance with the Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal award and without thorough technical scrutiny of the project report,” it said.
In October 2007, the state government filed a suit in the Supreme Court, challenging the environmental clearance given by the ministry of environment and forests. In the same year, the National Environment Appellate Authority set aside the clearance. The authority’s order has been challenged.
Coinciding with its call to observe a shutdown in the undivided Koraput district, BJD MLAs today rushed to the Well as soon as it met this morning. They were holding placards and shouting slogans opposing the project. In the morning, the House could meet for only two minutes.
Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said: “The ruling party, which is supposed to co-operate in the smooth conduct of the House, today disrupted it.”
“The BJD government lacks sincerity. The government has never conducted any survey or elicited public opinion on the project in the area,” said Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati, who hails from undivided Korapur district.
BJP legislature party leader Basant Kumar Panda said: “The state government is not clear about the extent of area to be submerged and the population to be affected. The BJP will oppose the project, if it goes against the state’s interest.”