There seems to be no end to the decade long water crisis for the farmers of Bandhaberna village, Sundergarh, Odisha.
Odisha is primarily an agrarian economy. A lot of attempts have been made to strengthen the water sources by looking into an extensive network of river and stream, which is the main source of agriculture. However, farmers in Bandhaberna village, Sundergard district, Odisha have been paying water tax for more than 20 years, but in return, there is no water for irrigation.
“Our village was set up in the 1960s. Since then we have been paying land and water cess”, said Ghuniram, a farmer from Bandhaberna village. Ghuniram also says, that earlier they were getting water for irrigation, but for the last two decades, farmers are hardly getting any water for irrigation purposes. Although significant efforts have been made to involve the farmers through irrigation canals, nothing concrete has been submitted. Farmers of Bandhaberna village, raised this issue several times to the Tahsildar, but no action has been taken.
Odisha’s ecologically rich Khandadhar hills have a number of big and small waterfalls and originate into two major rivers—the Brahmani and the Baitarani. Today, this waterfall is under threat because of the rigorous mining activities. A lot of farmers from Lunipada block were using water from the dam over Khandadhar streams, but this stream was diverted by the Odisha Mining Company for their own use. “Earlier we were paying water tax, now also we are paying it. Water source from Khandadhar stream has been diverted through another project. But we are paying taxes to the government”, said Saguru Munda, ward member, of Bandhaberna village.
Satrughna, a farmer, still pays Rs.4 per acre as water tax. When the community complained about the scarcity of water, to the Revenue Inspector, he said that farmers will have to pay taxes, regardless of water supply in the village.
It’s been more than two decades that farmers are being forced to pay taxes, and it’s still very unclear, as to why the government is not able to address the issue.
Support farmers of Bandhaberna community by calling the Rashmita Pana, District Collector of Sundargarh, Odisha on +91-6622-272265 and requesting to ensure affordable and efficient irrigation facilities in the village.
Video by Community Correspondent, Bideshini.
Article by Grace Jolliffe, member of VV Editorial Team.