The package involves a INR 100 crore package for an underground piped water supply project for the town. The Chief Minister said said all the major nullahs that drain into river Mahanadi will be renovated. He also informed that the government will bear the cost of the examination and treatment of those infected by jaundice. The CM further said that adequate number of toilets will be constructed in different parts of the town to stop people from defecating in the open. He also announced some more packages the total cost of which is said to be INR 160 crore.
In fact Ranjan Panda, the Mahanadi River Waterkeeper and Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha, had already warned - three years ago - that the pathetic water supply and sanitation situation in Sambalpur could invite such epidemics. Last year, in the run to launching of the 'Healthy Rivers, Happy Cities' campaign, led by Ranjan, a citizen's survey was conducted to assess the pollution of River at Sambalpur. This voluntary citizen's survey revealed the disastrous condition of Sambalpur's sanitation situation and Mahanadi's pollution due to the same. The government authorities kept ignoring the warning. Now, the jaundice has officially claimed 17 lives and near to two thousand people are affected currently. Further negligence could make things worse.
In the meanwhile, Odisha's health minister has been criticized for his statement terming this 160 crore package as a Gift to the people of Western Odisha. This is sheer politicization of such a sensitive issue. Ranjan Panda has asked the Ministers to refrain from such statements. In fact, the government's apathy is one of the major reasons for the cause of this epidemic in Sambalpur and the government officials must concentrate all their energies to fight this with help of local people, civil societies and others rather than engaging in petty political games.
A latest news coverage of the issue can be found at the following link, which also quotes Ranjan: