Though large amounts of relief materials were rushed to the Sunderbans when cyclone Aila ripped through large areas here on May 25, three months later the supplies have dried up, now that the immediate crisis is over.
However, a larger calamity looms over the region, waiting to be addressed. Vast areas of the croplands still lie inundated by water from the estuaries and all the fresh water sources in the area have turned saline. Fields from which the water has been drained, will be rendered infertile in the coming years due to high soil salinity. Embankment repairs are still far from complete, with the season’s highest tide Sharshari bonna just three weeks away.
The inhabitants of Sunderbans fear that there are promises the State government may find difficult to keep.
In the interiors, villagers have left makeshift flags as reminders to passers-by that they are still in need of relief. These people rush towards the waters with excitement each time they hear the gad-gad-gad-gad sound of an approaching boat.
Sushmita Burman felt it beneath her dignity to beg for the relief that came soon as the tragedy struck. Three months later as the situation worsened, she doesn’t mind begging anymore. However, relief-laden boats don’t come to these parts anymore.
On Tuesday, it had been four days since the vessel bearing drinking water came to Satjelia island in Gosaba, one of the worst-hit areas.
“At first came the soaring waters that ravaged all we had. Then came the disease that killed by the dozens and now comes the neglect — hundreds of people thirsty , forgotten by the government, the NGOs and the media,” said Bhupati Mondal, a resident of the island.
“Initially, we were promised food for as long as it would take for the crisis to get over, but the food stopped coming after a couple of months. After that, they at least sent us drinking water. But even that has become erratic now,” said Sharaswati Sardar.
Those who lost their homes in the aftermath of the cyclone have also lost their faith in the administration.
“Ministers, MLAs and officials came and promised us Rs.10,000 as compensation, but here we are getting drenched in the monsoon rains and everyone has forgotten us,” said Ranajit Roy, whose house was washed away on that fateful day.
Some are still living in hutments they pitched on the embankments themselves or in temporary shelters propped on stilts.
Even the repairs of the embankments, which initially progressed at a furious pace, have slackened.