Odisha careful on river-link project

Govt apprehends water shortage in future

By Subrat Das and Subhashish Mohanty in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 10.06.15

Bhubaneswar, June 9: The state government is not excited about linking the Mahanadi and Godavari rivers, because it apprehends acute shortage of water in the Mahanadi basin in the future.

Water resources secretary P.K. Jena said: "We will not have much water in the Mahandi river by 2051 to share with others. If the Centre has more information, they should share it with us, and then we can examine the proposal."

Official sources said the state government apprehended that the Mahanadi river system would face a shortage of 10 lakh cusecs of water by 2051.

On May 29, a five-member team, led by additional secretary of the Union water resource ministry Amarjit Singh, had made a presentation before chief minister Naveen Patnaik about the proposed Mahanadi-Godavari link project.

Naveen had directed the officials to prepare a feasibility report.

Jena said: "The proposal is at a conceptual stage. We have to examine all the issues before giving our consent to the it."

He said: "The central team should have given details on how much agricultural land and forestland would be submerged by the project. The state government is worried that most parts of the Satkosia reservoir would be submerged if we go ahead with this," he said.

The proposed river linking project envisages diversion of the Mahanadi water into the Godavari by storing surplus water in a reservoir that would be built at Manibhadra in Nayagarh district and four barrages in different places.

The Manibhadra reservoir will be connected to Dowlaiswaram barrage on the Godavari in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh through a 932-km long link canal, which will pass through Nayagarh, Khurda, Ganjam and Gajapati districts of Odisha.

The project is said to have two objectives - to increase the irrigation potential of the state as Odisha is among the states with lowest irrigation potential and control floods in the Mahanadi basin.

A central government official said an additional six lakh hectares of agricultural land of Odisha could be irrigated by this project. The Centre is eager to execute the project, as it is considered as key to the interlinking of the Brahmaputra and Cauvery rivers.

However, the state government is cautious as attempts to build major dams on the Mahanadi had met with protests in the past.

After the Hirakud dam came into existence, the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1964 had laid the foundation stone for a dam to be built on the river at Tikarpara. The project was later abandoned because it was feared that vast areas would be inundated and many people protested against it.

Later, an idea mooted by the former chief minister J.B. Patnaik to build the Manibhadra dam on the Mahanadi after the devastating floods in 1982 could not be executed due to protests by the local people.