Jan 22, 2022
Rivers have been the lifelines of most civilisations and Mahanadi River is no exception. Dispute between the two neighbouring states over the Mahanadi began when the Odisha government alleged that the upper riparian state Chhattisgarh had ‘illegally’ constructed a number of barrages across the river and its tributaries.
Dispute between the two neighbouring states over the Mahanadi began when the Odisha government alleged that the upper riparian state Chhattisgarh had ‘illegally’ constructed a number of barrages across the river and its tributaries. This had seriously affected inflow of water into the Hirakud reservoir in Odisha, more so in the non-monsoon seasons. On May 16, 2018, Odisha government launched ‘Save Mahanadi Campaign’ against its neighbouring state’s illegal obstruction of the Mahanadi River’s water. Currently, the matter is being heard by a tribunal set up by the central government.
Rivers have been the lifelines of most civilisations and have provided humans with food, livelihood, socio-cultural and religious identities along with recreation. Agriculture and livestock rearing have been two interrelated activities in rural India, more so along the banks of a river as the top soil is fertile due to flood plains. River bank provides vast space for livestock grazing too. The livelihood of many communities like inland fishermen, boatmen, and traditional artisans also depend on the river. Not the least, rivers are also of great ecological significance for both freshwater and riparian ecosystems. The Mahanadi of Odisha is no exception to these.
However, with urbanisation and industrialization, Mahanadi is facing a crisis and is dying like any other rivers in the country. Sand mining has changed the river’s course impacting the livelihood of various communities that were entirely dependent on the river. Construction of dams and barrages have also impacted the water flow downstream. River pollution has led to rising toxicity of the river water and ecological imbalance. Pollutants dumped mindlessly into the river by factories and households has resulted in killing most Indian rivers to a great extent. Mahanadi is not spared here. Further, political conflict between neighbouring states where the river takes its journey, has been an alarming topic for many rivers across the country. Again Mahanadi is no exception. ‘Right of River’ and ‘Right to River’ need to be protected for survival of the river and all living beings that depend on the river, including humans. Rivers are not meant for human consumption only but for larger ecological balance. All living beings have the right to ‘Access River’. We should let the river flow freely as a gift of nature. A river that stands for ‘Blues beyond Boundaries’ should be a messenger of peace and not that of constant conflict.
Author Bratindi Jena of Action Aid writes on this burning topic titled ‘Thirsty River and People.’ Read more here.
Summary written by Amrita Tripathy.