Living in fear of the Ganga in Bengal

Riverbank erosion is swallowing several areas in Nadia, Malda districts

Published - August 17, 2018 11:52 pm IST - Kolkata

 People watching the swollen waters of the Ganga in Nadia district.

People watching the swollen waters of the Ganga in Nadia district.

Several areas of West Bengal’s Nadia and Malda districts are experiencing severe erosion of riverbanks over the last couple of weeks, rendering hundreds of people homeless. Among the severely affected villages, three are in Nadia district while one is in Malda district.

Since last week, at least eight houses were swallowed by the mighty Ganga in the Uttar Sarati village in Nadia’s Kalyani block, rendering 40 people homeless. Locals said that during last monsoon also, 16 houses were swallowed by the river as its bank collapsed. However, no casualties have been reported so far.

The area residents claim that they go through this ordeal almost every monsoon. About a couple of years ago, an entire village called Durgapur was swallowed up by the Ganga and at least 300 families became homeless. Most of them had then settled in adjoining villages.

The situation has caused severe discontent among locals against the State government. “Every day we are living in fear of the Ganga. The river is just 55 metres away from my house and may swallow it any day,” Noor Islam, a resident of Uttar Sarati village, told The Hindu .

Mr. Alam also accused the State government of not addressing the issue properly. “We are losing our homes every year and the State government is doing nothing substantial to address the issue. Instead of wasting funds by doing small repairs on the riverbank, the government should take up a comprehensive project to deal with the matter.”

About 100 metres away, the residents of Hemnagar village also are living in fear of losing their village. Nearly 50 people have become homeless in the last couple months. Over the last decade, nearly half of the village has been swallowed by the Ganga. Locals said the people of the once-prosperous village have lost most of their farmlands and are now earning their livelihoods doing odd jobs.

Residents of Bamangola block in Malda district are also facing a similar situation due to the erosion of banks by the swelling Tangon river. The Tangon is a tributary of Punarbhaba River which originates in the Thakurgaon, a district in north-western Bangladesh. Residents fear for their life and property.

State Irrigation Minister Somen Mahapatra admitted that the government does not have any information regarding the number of people affected by the erosion. “I don’t have any data on this. It is the Centre’s responsibility to deal with the issue but they are totally not bothered,” the Minister said.

He further alleged that despite being repeatedly urged by the State government to chalk out a master plan to deal with riverbank erosion by conducting a joint survey, the Centre didn’t even bother to respond to the letters by the State government.

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