Allegations of unauthorized construction activities by filling natural water bodies have been reported in Bhubaneswar against the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT).
It is alleged that illegal construction is taking place in the Patia area by filling up a natural water body for the establishment of the IT department of the private educational institution.
According to the allegations, after securing land in their name, KIIT authorities filled in part of the adjacent water body and began construction work.
According to government records, plots No. 50 and No. 121, where construction works are in progress, are mentioned as bodies of water (Jalapata and Pani Nala, respectively). In addition, sub-plot 1593 of plot no. 50 is recorded as dual crop land in the records.
Questions are now being raised as to how the water body sub-plot was converted to agricultural land. Furthermore, although plot no. 121 is registered as a body of water (Pani Nala), the said plot has reportedly been backfilled and construction work is in progress there.
Meanwhile, resentment began to rumble among locals over the alleged encroachment of water bodies to facilitate construction activities. “Lot No. 121 Pani Nala has divided Patia and Raghunathpur ‘mauza’ into two parts. But the natural water body is being filled and a road has also been built to use the land,” said Tapan Baliarsingh, a resident.
“Jalasaya (body of water) land cannot be used without changing its classification. Until now, I know that before, collectors used to change the classification, but now, following the High Court order, the DRC is changing it,” said Sarat Sahoo, a retired civil servant from the Ministry of Finance.
On the allegations of using the water bodies for construction purposes, Sahoo said that a “proposal for change of classification must have been sent; and, it must have been the subject of legal proceedings”.
As it is not possible to change the kisam of the Jalasaya land (as per the rule), several questions are now raised as to who had given permission for the construction work on the Jalasaya land? Did the local administration give undue favor to KIIT founder Achyuta Samanta, who is a BJD MP? Are government officials aware of the alleged encroachment, but silent? Are the authorities of the KIIT throwing the rules to the wind when the founder of the institution is a deputy of the BJD?
Although OTV attempted to contact State Revenue Department officials to get their opinion on the matter, it was not possible. Moreover, the municipal engineer of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) feigned ignorance when asked about the matter.
“There is a special team for the evacuation of encroaching natural water bodies on a priority basis. It (alleged illegal constructions by KIIT) has not yet come to our knowledge. We will take action accordingly,” BMC City Engineer Arun Nayak said.
KIIT’s public relations manager spoke to OTV about it, but declined to speak on camera.
Apparently KIIT has purchased sub-plot 1593 of plot #50. And construction on the same plot is ongoing. Additionally, they refuted allegations of any type of construction work going on on lot #121.
On the other hand, this natural body of water is connected to the Gangua River (by Patia and Raghunathpur) and witnesses the migration of several species of birds during the winter. Therefore, its preservation is also important from an environmental point of view.
However, due to the alleged illegal filling, these migratory birds can no longer be seen in the area. “We have failed to preserve the beautiful view of the Raghunathpur water body and subsequently the migratory birds that visit the area,” lamented conservationist Manas Mishra.