BARIPADA: Delay in upgradation of the century-old Haldia dam in Mayurbhanj district may become another poll issue in the upcoming rural elections as farmers depending on the project feel deprived of irrigation facilities during rabi season triggering discontentment for years now. The lack of water supply during the winter months has also affected groundnut cultivation which fetches good returns for the growers.
Sources said, the problem has been persisting for 11 years now since the government undertook the dam upgradation project in 2011. To cater to the water crisis during the kharif season, Haldia dam supplies water through canal system to over 2,429 hectare (ha) land mostly in Baiganbadia, Dumurdiha, Marangtandi, Kautunmari, Haldia panchayats along with adjoining areas.
Before upgradation of the project started, the dam catered to rabi irrigation and helped farmers grow the lucrative groundnut crop. But later, the dam work lagged and water was stooped for rabi season which did not go down well with farmers.
They alleged that despite repeated appeals to the district administration and other higher-ups for speedy completion of the project, none paid heed.
“Discontinuation of farming activity during rabi season has affected us economically. Groundnut farming gave us good returns but we are now unable to pursue it due to water scarcity as the dam is not releasing water during this time for a decade now,” said farmers Sudam Murmu and Kartikeswar Singh of Dumurdiha.
Kartikeswar said, he has 2.5 acre land under the irrigation project location but is unable to use it for farming activity during rabi cycle.
Incidentally, Haldia Dam comes under Bangiriposi constituency from where Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Sudam Marndi was elected as MLA. As people in the area feel that the Minister too did not pay any heed to their problems despite frequent appeals, sources said the local anger will reflect in the panchayat elections Contacted, executive engineer of Mayurbhanj Irrigation department Narayan Das informed that the government had provided Rs 270 crore for upgradation of the dam in 2011. Presently, four parts of the work – earth dam, spill wall and two regulators both left and right canals and bridge, have been carried out by a construction agency .
It targeted to irrigate more than 5,520 ha land initially but was later extended to benefit farmers of both Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts by connecting with the Subarnarekha Irrigation Project, Das said, adding that the project will be completed by March and become functional from June this year.