Global warming is the only issue that dominates the pre-poll scenario in this tiny 4.5-sq-km island. Or rather, what is left of the island that was twice this size in 1969.
Steady soil erosion and rising sea levels have gobbled up half the island in just four decades. Which is why, the ruling CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress, the two major contenders for the couple of thousand votes here, talk only about the threat of submersion in their campaign.
Ajay Patra, former Pradhan of the Trinamool Congress-led Ghoramara Panchayat, said, “We have already won all the three tiers of the Panchayat, and now it is time to go forward. Our main issue would be to stop the island from sinking further. He said, “The government has done little so far.”
Although this tiny island in a remote corner of the South 24-Parganas district has the distinction of a fully solar-powered area, it has become a symbol of the global crisis. Rising sea levels and erosion caused by the Buttola river in the east and the Hooghly in the west threaten the future of the island. And the villagers have to move to safer places periodically.
The village Panchayat has already built a two-storied building to shelter people when large parts of the island are inundated. “Even though erosion goes on throughout the year, we face our worst times during the rainy season. We have to keep moving from one place to another,” Patra said.
Octogenarian Debesh Naskar had to change his address at least three times in his lifetime so far. He said, “The total size of the island was nearly 10,000 acres even in the late eighties. Now, only 1,000 acres are left.”
In the 1970s also, the island consisted of three Mouzas -- the lowest revenue unit started during the Mughal period – but now the island has only one Mouza, having just five villages, housing about 5,000 people.
Till date, no election meeting could be held in the island as the villagers sent out a message to the politicians not to disturb their children preparing for the higher secondary board examinations.
Prosenjit Ghora, who will appear for his higher secondary examination this year, said, “I have seen graffiti and flags but there has been no meeting so far. The villagers have decided to keep campaigns in abeyance till exams are over.”