Siwan villages turn water bodies to sustain Indo-Nepal canal
Farmers eagerly await rainfall. It is essential for their crops. But, for around 12,000 agriculture-dependent families residing in 22 villages of four blocks in Siwan district, rainfall spells trouble.
“For us, rainfall means shifting our family members to our relatives’ places for at least six months or living in dirty water filled with human waste, filth and garbage,” said the residents, who were in the state capital on Wednesday.
Their troubles started 20 years ago, after the central government built a canal parallel to the river course of Chhoti Gandaki, or Ganderi as they call it, as part of a hydro-electricity agreement between India and Nepal.
Over the last two decades, villagers of the blocks Goriakothi, Badharia, Maharajganj and Pachrukhi, have been facing waterlogging as the course of the river got blocked due to constant deposition of silt brought by the canal water under the agreement.
The result: Around 50,000 acres of land remain unused, affecting livelihood and living conditions of 12,000 Dalit and Muslim families. Their women and men have nowhere to relieve themselves, and nobody is interested to wed their sons or daughters in the waterlogged villages.
“Barhaiya block is most affected. The canal brings water from Manjha in Gopalganj and deposits it near Chanchpopal, silt and all. This blockade makes the water flow inwards, towards the hamlets. The situation becomes unbearable during rainfall. We remain homeless and jobless for almost six months,” said Ranjit Bahadur Singh, one of the affected residents.
Samina Khatoon added, “We approached the local authorities, including the circle officer and district magistrate. There were only assurances.”
An organisation, Chhoti Gandaki (Ganderi) Nadi Bachao Abhiyan Samiti, which took up the villagers’ issue, also met state and central department officials, but to no avail.
“The officials only blamed others for our plight. Some inspections were conducted though, the most recent one done in April this year. It was to no use,” said chief patron of the organisation, Sanjeev Srivastwa.
Now, the villagers are planning protests. “Our pleas did not achieve anything. Maybe our protests will,” said Srivastwa.
“It is shameful. The blockade made by silt deposition causes the water to flow inwards and inundates our land. We become homeless and jobless for six months once the water is released from Nepal to the Gandak,” Ranjit Bahadur Singh.
“Once, the river was our primary source to make a living. The entire area was fertile for cultivating sugarcane and Rabi crops. Now, there is just water and it has destroyed everything,” Baliram Manjhi.
“Modern farming methods are too expensive for us now, especially during monsoons. Our only hope is to migrate to cities and try to earn a living,” Mohammad Islam said.
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