Villagers spend sleepless nights as river erosion worsens in north Bengal
Heavy rains have caused the river to swell and the erosion has worsened in several villages of Malda and Murshidanad districtsUpdated: Aug 20, 2020, 16:33 IST
Dipak Saha, 56, and his family have been forced to take shelter at a school in West Bengal’s Malda for over a week. They cannot risk staying home anymore with the Ganga flowing barely 20 metres away. Heavy rains have swollen the river and worsened soil erosion across villages on the Ganga banks in Malda and Murshidabad districts and left thousands of families vulnerable.
“Every day, the river is washing away five to six bighas of land. We could not sleep all night out of fear. Earlier, it used to flow quite a distance from my house. But now, it is barely 20 metres away,” said Saha. He added he has seen at least 50 houses getting washed away over the last few days.
Khagen Murmu, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker from Malda (North) who visited the erosion-hit areas in Farakka, said the Centre is aware of the problem in Malda and Murshidabad. “We are ready to help the state government in all possible ways. I have written to the state government and requested for a detailed project report on curbing erosion in Malda and Murshidabad,” said Murmu.
An earthen dyke is the only barrier between the river and the villages in the region. The river is now flowing around 30 metres from the dyke. Residents fear a breach will have the river water gushing into the villages.
“The condition in Goloktola, Panchkuritola, Khasmahal, Gourpara and Kamaluddinpur villages under Bangitola panchayat is serious. Many people have abandoned their houses and are shifting to safer places,” said Rabi Sheikh, a resident of Gourpara.
Ejarat Ali, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s block president of Farakka, said though erosion is an old problem in the district, this year it has become serious. “Erosion in Hossainpur, Kulidear and Parsujapur has worsened. We have requested the administration to shift some families from those villages. Our party has provided them with relief material.”
Residents said that they have informed the irrigation department about the erosion. Senior officials of the department refused to comment.
The situation is also worsening in Murshidabad district where soil erosion has been reported from places like Shamserganj. Over the last five days, the Ganga has flooded several areas in Murshidabad.
A resident of Bangitola in Malda said erosion started in the area around a week ago but it aggravated from Sunday evening. “Over the last two days, the river has washed away over a 20 bigha land plot in the area and is flowing dangerously close to the residential area.”
Murshidabad’s TMC spokesman, Goutam Ghosh, said soil erosion around the Ganga and Padma rivers in Murshidabad is an age-old problem. “In the last nine years, the TMC government has carried out some anti-erosion work between Farakka and Lalgola.”