Days after a ‘donga’ (boat) capsized in the backwaters of the Indirasagar dam in MP leading to five deaths, local residents continue to use the flimsy boats to cross the reservoir due to the lack of any other option.
The dongas, which are ferried by private citizens and lack any security in the form of life belts or rubber tubes, transport hundreds of people from parts of the Harda district to the market in Handia town.
Additionally, these boats are often packed to full capacity with cattle being ferried along with the people.
Ten futile years after a bridge was promised to the people of Kankarda, they are left with no choice but to resort to boat rides to reach the other side of the reservoir.
“For residents of Kankarda, this is a huge issue because to reach the other settlement, they have no other option. Unlike in a river, when there is wind, it becomes very difficult to row the boat in a reservoir,” said Alok Agarwal, a Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist and the AAP state convener.
According to residents, a bhumi pujan ceremony was conducted for the promised bridge nearly a decade ago, but there has been no activity ever since and with the spreading of the backwaters of the dam reservoir, parts of the village got submerged and disconnected from other parts of the district.
“The residents have been demanding that either the bridge be constructed or they be rehabilitated,” Agarwal said.
“If anyone from Kankarda has to go to Gopalpur, it barely takes half hour by boat. Otherwise, the person is faced with much longer route,” says Balram, a local resident.
Divisional commissioner VK Batham said that he was aware of the issue of lack of safety of the dongas and their continued usage, and added that action was being initiated to provide an alternate road link.
“The expanse of water is very large here but there is a point where a small bridge was to be built. We will push for its construction,” he said.
Further, the commissioner added that the fisheries department had been asked to provide boats to transport villagers in a safer manner.