The ruling Biju Janata Dal on Friday called for a four-hour ‘hartal’ on Saturday in four western Odisha districts over the Mahanadi water dispute with neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The hartal will be observed for four hours from 6 am till 10 am on Saturday morning in the districts of Sambalpur,
Bargarh, Jharsuguda and Sonepur, BJD vice-president and MP Prasanna Acharya told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
He said rallies and roadside meetings will be held this evening (Friday evening) in the four districts to woo public support on the Mahanadi water dispute. Essential services, will be exempted from the strike, Acharya said. BJD’s another vice-president and former minister Debi Prasad Mishra accused the NDA government at Centre of supporting the BJP government in Chhattisgarh which constructed six barrages on upstream of river Mahanadi “unilaterally” and “illegally.”
“How come a Central government under federal system support a state which caused problem for the people of another state,” Mishra asked. Mishra said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on June 3 had written to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh to instruct the officials of Chhattisgarh Water Resources department to immediately open the gates of Kalma barrage and ensure free flow of water in Mahanadi River.
However, the Chhattisgarh government did not respond. The Kalma barrage is one of the six barrages “unilaterally” built by the Chhattisgarh government across the river Mahanadi without any reference or regard to the downstream interests of Odisha and its inhabitants, Patnaik had written in the letter.
As Chhattisgarh government closed the gates of Kalma barrage, the people of Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Bargarh, Sonepur and many other districts have been facing acute drinking water shortage, Mishra alleged.