Bhubaneswar 21/08/2021; The row over the controversial Bhadrak Mega Drinking Water Supply Project is getting more dismaying and humiliating for both the Kendrapara district and state administration. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) on 21 August has levelled serious allegations of manipulation and forgery against the state government in giving approval to the project. The party has alleged that the state government has lied and showed a bogus Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report to justify that there is no adverse effect on Bhitarakanika National Park, alleged Satya Prakash Nayak, PCC media convenor. The Kendrapara district administration has been maintaining that the ESIA report on Bhadrak Mega Drinking Water Supply Project is being prepared by IIT Hyderabad and the study results show, there is nothing to worry about the ecology and bio-diversity of Bhitarkanika wildlife Sanctuary.
What are Congress’ allegations?
The Congress on 21 August brought grave charges against the state administration saying that the claimed ESIA report of the IIT Hyderabad is FAKE. Explaining the forgery committed by the administration, he said the alleged report has not done any study on the probable impact of the project on Bhitarkanika. There is no mention of Bitarkanika and its ecology in that ESIA report. The said report has dealt with issues concerning civil work, construction, waste treatment, water flow, noise pollution etc. Adding to the allegations Satya Nayak asked, how did the Odisha government deliberately ignore the Bhitarakanika Eco-Sensitive Zone committee approval before starting the mega pipe water supply project? Since both place, the water intake point Barunadia on Kharasrota river, Kendrapara district and the water treatment plant at Nuahat, Nhadrak district fall under the eco-sensitive zone of Bhitarkanika national park, it is mandatory for the district and state administrations to get the approval prior to the beginning of the project. And for that, there has to be a detailed Environment Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study by an accredited agency/institution to assess the adverse impact of the project (if any) on the ecology and environment of BHitarakanika National Park. Sadly in this case meeting of eco-sensitive zone committee was convened when 40 percent of the project work is almost complete, said Nayak. That’s not all, the district administration did not maintain the procedures while convening the ESZ meeting. Why all the 10 members of the committee were not invited to the meeting? Why didn’t the ESIA report by IIT Hyderabad was not placed in the first meeting convened on 03 December 2020? asked congress.
Key questions of Congress
- Which department and officer took the decision to entrust the ESIA report preparation work to IIT, Hyderabad?
- Why was the Civil Engineering department chosen for the ESIA study on subjects concerning environment and wildlife?
- Why didn’t the ESIA study work not given to a well reputed and nationally accredited institution of environment science, since Bhitarakanika and its ecology is a highly sensitive and complex environmental matter?
- What was the Terms Of Reference (TOR) for the ESIA study contract ?
- How much money paid to IIT, Hyd for the ESIA report?
- How did government approve of the findings of the project report without Bhitarkanika issue being studied and reported?
- When was the assignment given to IIT Hyd and when did they submit the report to the government?
- Why did the Forest and Environment Department and Mangrove Forest Division of Bhitarkanika are silent on the issue?
- Why Bikram Arukh the state Forest minister, is silent on the issue.
The chief minister’s office has heavily pressurised the district administration to carry forward the project, alleged Satya Nayak. Both top government officials and the executing contract agency Megha Engineering Infra pvt ltd are hand in gloves, alleged Nayak. Interestingly, the district administration went up to the extent of bypassing a Government of India statute to favour the agency and push forward the project. On 16 June 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change brought a Gazette notification and declared the Bhitarkanika marine sanctuary and National park as Eco-Sensitive Zone. It clearly specified the Dos and Donts inside the Eco-Sensitive zone area that bars any kind of activity inside the Eco-sensitive Zone without the prior approval of the committee. Despite the law being clearly mentioned, the district administration defied not only the rules and regulations but the resistance of the local people, alleged Congress.
The police-agitators clash took violent turn with the police resorting to lathi charge. Police registered cases against more than 800 people. The district administration should immediately drop cases against the locals, demanded congress.
They should stop immediately the project work till the ESIA done properly. Start Criminal proceedings against the district collector and superintendent of police, demanded congress.