Even four years after laying the foundation stone the ground work of the much-publicised irrigation projects of Odisha government on Mahendratanaya river in Gajapati have not taken off.
It may be noted that Odisha government had proposed irrigation project through barrages on Mahendratanaya river to counter the proposed project of Andhra Pradesh government downstream Mahendratanaya river. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the proposed projects on Mahendratanaya river in Gajapati district on April 30, 2008, at Dambapur. At that time it was claimed that the project would be complete within two years.
The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh had laid the foundation for the proposed project on Mahendratanaya river at Regulapadu in Srikakulam district on April 4, 2008. Odisha government had alleged that Andhra government had had violated the 1962 inter-State agreement by taking up this project on Mahendratanya river without consulting Odisha. Mahendratanaya is a tributary of Bansadhara river. It originates from a place near Tuparasingi village in Gajapati district, and flows through Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. A large chunk of its river bed is in Gajapati and Rayagada districts of Odisha. People of these two districts had opposed the Andhra Pradesh project claiming that it would lead to extreme shortage of water in areas dependant on this river.
The retaliatory projects of Odisha government involved construction of two barrages on the river near Dambapur and Champapur villages of Gajapati district at distance of around 40 kilometres from Andhra Pradesh border. At the time of foundation stone laying ceremony the cost of the project was estimated at Rs. 38 crore. It was claimed that these barrages would be completed within two years and they would irrigate 3,050 hectares of land besides providing water to Paralakhemundi, the district headquarters of Gajapati district. According to ‘Mahendratanaya Bachao Andolan (MBA)’ an organisation that had been a major catalyst behind the decision of Odisha government to propose retaliatory project on Mahendratanaya river, the State government had failed to keep up its promise. Convener of MBA Srikant Padhi said, “It is an irony that Andhra Pradesh project was inaugurated last month but the proposed barrages of Odisha are yet to materialise.” Tenders for construction of these two barrages were called up twice. No major construction company showed interest in them. A construction firm has taken up the Dambapur barrage project but the same company has not shown interest in the other barrage, he said. According to data received through RTI application, experts feel the sites chosen for the two barrages were not suitable. “If it is so then why did not the Odisha government consult experts before announcing the project,” the MBA activists asked.
The ground reality regarding this proposed Odisha project on Mahendratanaya river is that at present only one assistant engineer and three junior engineers have been deputed by the Odisha government for this much publicised project. It hints at the real interest of the government towards it, Mr. Padhi said. He added that this callousness of government towards the project makes people think that it may have been a publicity stunt.