Bhubaneswar: Orissa`s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Sunday organised a massive rally in Malkangiri town to protest the union government`s approval of the Polavaram dam project on the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh.
A large number of party leaders including eight ministers, members of parliament and legislators attended the rally. However, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and senior leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra skipped the meeting.
Sunday`s was the second rally the party organised in a tribal heartland this month. It had organised a similar protest meeting near the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district Sept 3.
"The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is maintaining double standards. While it is pushing development projects in Congress-governed states, its yardstick for non-Congress ruled states is totally different," state Finance Minister Prafulla Ghadai said.
"It has blocked several mega projects in Orissa but approved those which will affect our state," Ghadai said.
"Our protest against the move will continue in future. The central government approved the Polavaram project despite our objection," he said.
"The project is going to affect several villages in our state. In case of the floods, the back water of the Godavari will flow to its tributaries --Saberi and Sileru in Malkangiri disrit, and submerge dozens of villages," another BJD leader said.
The BJD appeared to be angry after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi attended a tribal rally near the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district Aug 26 and congratulated the tribals for winning a battle against a bauxite mining project in the region.
The state government which was pushing the Vedanta mining project received a jolt when the union environment and forests ministry last month rejected it on environmental grounds.
The union ministry also last month asked Orissa to stop all work related to POSCO steel project, including land acquisition, due to violation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
The Andhra Pradesh government says the Rs 10,150-crore Polavaram irrigation project will provide drinking water to 2.85 million people, produce 960 MW of power and give industry 23,500 million cubic feet of water.
The project, first envisioned by the British rulers in 1941 has, however, been facing opposition since decades from local residents who fear displacement, as well as from Orissa and Chhattisgarh.