The Hirakud dam was built over river Mahanadi between 1947-1953. Its purpose was to check flood, irrigate 2,35,477 hectares of land and generate power. This dam displaced 22,000 families and submerged more than 300 villages. More than 50 per cent of those displaced have not been resettled yet and the whereabouts of half of them are not known. Not even 2/3rd of the targeted land is irrigated and power generation is on the decline for the last 2 decades.
Now industrial projects have started competing with the farmers of the Hirakud command area for water. As a result of this, farmers have been denied irrigation. In October 2006, the farmers organised a 20 kilometre long human chain to protest this diversion of agricultural water to industry. In November 2007, about 30,000 farmers protested at the main gates of the reservoir and erected a wall close to the reservoir warning the industry not to steal irrigation water. Despite the police atrocities, the farmers of western Odisha have refused to give up hope in the war for Hirakud’s water.