Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bolangir, Nov 27:
Bolangir Kriyanusthana Committee, supported by about 40 other civil organisations, today held a massive agitation in Bolangir demanding compensation and other necessary facilities for people displaced by Odisha’s Lower Suktel project as per Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013.
The activists picketed through the Bolangir town and closed down the offices of Bolangir Collector and Chief Engineer of the project. Later a meeting was held in front of the office of the collector.
“We demand that the displaced be compensated as per Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. Besides, all necessary government facilities should be accorded. This is a symbolic bandh that we are conducting in front of the collector’s office and other offices related of the project. The agitation would be further intensified if the government doesn’t give in to our demands,” said President of Bolangir Kriyanusthana Committee Gopalji Panigrahi.
“The project work in going on but the compensation depends upon the cabinet decision. We would take necessary action after the government approves the proposal,” said Chief Executive Engineer or Lower Suktel project Belalasen Bhoi.
It may be noted that earlier on April 15, the RPDAC (Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee) for the Lower Suktel Irrigation Project had taken a decision to recommend the Odisha Government to pay compensation to the families of displaced as per the provisions of the ‘Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’.
However, seven years after the project started, the displaced are yet to be compensated. NGOs and civil rights organisations, besides LSBASP (Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad), continue to oppose the project protesting against the displacement and inadequate compensation given to the land losers of the project. The project work has had to be halted many times due to stiff protests from LSBASP members.
The project is being constructed on River Suktel, a tributary of river Tel, a major right tributary of river Mahanadi. It was initially planned to be implemented with an investment of Rs 217 crores but the costs had escalated to nearly Rs. 1,042 crores by mid 2013 and continues to rise. The Environment Clearance to the project was given by the Ministry of Environment and Forest back in 1998.
The dam site, located around 20 kilometres from the Bolangir town is expected to submerge more than 30 villages. But upon completion of the project, thousands of farmers in Balangir, Nuapada, and Subarnapur district would be benefited.