At a time when water is being considered a scarce commodity and with industries mushrooming all over the State, including Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts where the Hirakud reservoir is the main source, a good number of industrial units, unfortunately drawing water from this reservoir, even at the cost of agriculture, are going scot free without paying water rent to the tune of crores. This when the dam authorities even take the risk of storing more water during the rainy season for these industries, apprehending scanty rainfall and in violation of rules.
While a poor farmer is compelled to pay water rent, the same rule is not being applied to the industries in these two districts as well as most other parts of the State. A farmer cannot sell paddy in the market without showing a water tax payment receipt. But industries who evade water rent do not face the slightest trouble either in operating their units or in marketing their products. And in the process, some officers and politicians get their hands sufficiently greased. It is also alleged that some of the industries are clandestinely using ground water to meet their excess requirements.
As per reports, all the industries of these two districts draw 100 crore litres of water everyday for their use. These industries are — Aditya Aluminium-Lapanga, SMC Power-Hirma, Rathi Steel and Power-Potapali, Shyam DRI-Rengali, Bhushan Power and Steel-Rengali, Biraj Steels and Power-Rengali, Action Ispat-Marakuta, Aryan Ispat-Rengali, Vedant Aluminium-Jharsuguda, NTPC Power Plant-Darlipali and many more. But most of these industries are not paying water rent regularly. Some of them, very tactfully, do not pay the rent for years together. And after a few years they go for one-time settlement and pay very meagre amounts with the blessings of politicians and departmental officers.
On the other hand, the officers who are helping the industries have been immensely benefited monetarily and by way of good jobs to their relations with better perks. Even the CAG of India in his report has mentioned the irregularities in this regard during 2003-2008. Whereas the State Government needs to be more careful after the CAG report, no such promptness is seen from the Government side for collection of the pending dues.
The situation is also no better in other places of the State so far as collection of water tax from the industries is concerned. The industries by gaining over the officers continue to live off the State’s economy.