KENDRAPARA: With the Rs 241 crore mega drinking water project moving at a snail’s pace, residents of coastal villages in the district reel under water scarcity. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone of the project in December, 2018 and it was supposed to be completed within two years. But there has been little headway in the project though it is nearing its deadline.
Drinking water crisis has remained a major issue in the seaside villages and the project is meant to resolve the problem in 148 villages under 26 gram panchayats within Mahakalapada and 52 villages of 16 panchayats within Marsaghai block with a population of 2.36 lakh.
But some villagers last year challenged the project before the National Green Tribunal (NG T) claiming that its construction over 15.43 acre land in Manikunda village in Marsaghai block was illegal as the land was recorded as ‘Gramya Jungle’ or village forest. Subsequently, NGT stayed the work stating it was being undertaken without clearance from authorities under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, said executive engineer of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) Dilip Kumar Dehury.
The proposed project is aimed at supplying 25 million litre drinking water from Luna and Chitratola rivers after proper treatment. As many as 28 overhead water tanks will be built under the project, which involves laying of around 150-km water pipeline, construction of six underground reservoirs and two water treatment plants at Jadupur and Manikunda. “We have already completed 60 per cent of the work . As per the order of NG T, we are yet to start the work in Manikunda village.
Our department has written to the Forest department to get clearance for the project,” Dehury said. Ingress of saline water in several coastal villages has been increasing, leaving agricultural lands infertile. Many villages were virtually floating in an ocean of sweet water three decades back.
But due to excess drawing of groundwater, the salinity level has been increasing every year. “People queuing up to collect water from a few tubewells in the villages is a common sight. The authorities should complete the work on the drinking water project immediately so that the purpose is not lost,” said Sarat Behera of Jadupur village.