.........BHUBANESHWAR: The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Friday called for a four-hour hartal in four Western Odisha districts on Saturday against the Chhattisgarh government’s move to close gates of the Kalma barrage.
They demanded it to be immediately opened to ensure flow of water in the Mahanadi river.
Announcing this at a media conference here, the party's Rajya Sabha MP and vice-president Prasanna Acharya, vice-president Debi Mishra and Rajya Sabha MP Nagendra Pradhan said the hartal will take place in Sambalpur, Bargarh, Jharsuguda and Sonepur districts from 6 am to 10 am.
However, all essential services have been exempted from the strike.
Acharya said rallies and roadside meetings were scheduled for Friday in the four districts. Describing it as a serious situation, Mishra said closure of barrage gates has led to a drinking water crisis in downstream areas in Western Odisha.
The Chhattisgarh government’s move has given rise to widespread resentment among the people, he said.
The former minister alleged that the Chhattisgarh government has constructed six barrages, including Kalma, to supply water to eight power plants.
Construction of the barrages was taken up by the Chhattisgarh government without permission from the Central Water Commission (CWC) or Odisha’s consent, he said.
The barrages have choked the flow of water to the Mahanadi and drastically reduced the flow, said Prasanna Acharya, adding that the Chhattisgarh government is earning Rs 243 crore per annum by providing water to the power plants.
Earlier on June 3, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had written to his Chhattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh to instruct officials of Chhattisgarh water department to immediately open the barrage gates.
Following no response, Patnaik wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 6 seeking his intervention.