Sea gobbles up five villages in 15 years

Updated on May 18, 2007 03:16 AM IST
Effects of global warming have been showing in the Orissa coast for the past 15 years, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.
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Hindustan Times | BySoumyajit Pattnaik, Bhubaneswar

So far, you have only heard of theories like this: Maldives will completely go under the ocean due to global warming. But did you know that the effects of global warming have been showing in the Orissa coast for the past 15 years?

On Wednesday, a big tidal wave hit the coast in the Satabhaya area of Kendrapara district. It swept away homes and inundated farmland. But was no exception.

Tidal waves like this one have been a regular phenomenon in the area. In the past 15 years, the sea has come inside the land by 2.5 kilometers. And as many as 600 families are leading a precarious existence in the Satabhaya and Kanhupur areas due to this phenomenon.

Satabhaya, as the name suggests, once boasted of seven adjacent villages. Five of them have now been completely devoured by the sea. Thirteen families lost their homes to the surging waters on Wednesday. There was, fortunately, no loss of lives.

Kendrapara collector Kasinath Sahu tried to play down the danger: “The waves that struck were certainly taller than the average tide. But it was not 20-feet-high as reported by some papers.”

But past episodes only go to show how imminent and real this danger is. In the early 1980s, Gobindpur, Manhipur and Kuainri Ora villages went under the sea.

In the mid ’90s, the sea devoured two more villages Kharikula and Sarpada. Only Satabhaya and Kanhupur remain but for how long, no one knows.

Like many others from his village, Bishnu Charan Sahani, whose house was damaged beyond repair by Wednesday’s waves, said he would like to shift to a new location. Dilip Kumar Manda, formerly of Gobindpur, recalls: “When I was a child, our village was located 2 km from the sea. Now, it is part of the sea.”

Rajnagar MLA Nalinikanta Mohanty has suggested to the state government that the remaining families be moved to a safer location.

“It was decided that the people would be shifted to Bagapatia. Nearly Rs 12 lakh was spent for creating the required infrastructure there. But work has stopped on the ground that Bagapatia falls within forest land and requires the approval of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests,” he said.

A film on Satabhaya, Climate’s First Orphans, was telecast on the Discovery channel last year. It attributed the rising sea level to global warming. Director Nila Madhab Panda said: “We have established that sea fury in Satabhaya is linked to global warming. Besides, the loss of mangroves in the area has facilitated faster land erosion.”

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