Kolkata: The houses in Gosaba located in the Sundarbans area in South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, have been devastated by Cyclone Yaas. The area has been filled with chest high water, forcing the people to start an arduous journey to the cities, with children on their back and their animals in tow.
Mohammad Khan of Taranagar, Bara Mollakhali which falls within the South 24 Parganas district, told NewsClick about the desolate condition of Gosaba, with even the market submerged under water. Following a three days long power cut, the market area received electricity on May 30, as the water receded from the higher areas, said Dula Singh, a resident of the Gosaba Bazar area.
The biggest breach of river embankment, spanning over 3,500 feet, occurred at Dulki and Sonarga, he said, adding that the water entering the islands from that breach is engulfing the low lying villages and putting other embankments at risk as they are being hit by water from both sides resulting in washing out the gravel and gunny bags with which the embankments have fortified.
The villagers also said that not a single family in Bara Mollakhali have been able to prepare their own food, depending totally on the cooked food provided by an NGO. “We would have gone hungry without the food supplied them as there is a dearth of dry food, like puffed rice and jaggery, provided as relief material in the government-run relief camps,” said Singh.
Meanwhile, the state government has announced that monetary relief will only be available after the month of June, triggering the exodus of the poor who are dependent on the government’s compensation to rebuild their houses.
“As long as the water is not receding and the high tides are controlled by the lunar cycle, we are totally dependent on the help from NGOs because we are yet to receive any help from the government,” Dula Singh added.
Also read: In Wake of Cyclone Yaas, Unrest in Bengal’s Coastal Areas Over ‘Lack’ of Relief Material
Another aftermath of the cyclone is that the only source of safe drinking water in the villages, the tubewells are all submerged leading to a scarcity of water. According to Khan, several villages like Rangabelia, Pakhiralaya, Arampur, Ranipur, Bagbagan, Dayapur are now nearly empty. In nearby Lahiripur, too, which has witnessed several incidents of man-animal conflict with tiger mauling cases being reported, the embankment has been breached exposing the residents of the area to a grave threat.
Khan told NewsClick that people are now flocking to the Gosaba Ghat to take a launch to either Gotkhali, or go to any of their relatives in the subdivision town at Canning.
As per reports, nearly 80% of the gram panchayats in Gosaba are submerged due to the breach in embankment. In addition to Dulki and Sonarga – where the breach is the worst with 3,500 feet long embankment being washed away – Rangabelia, Uttar Danga, Radhanagar, Kachukhali and Kumir Mari have reported breach of embankments.
The breach occurred on May 26 and instead of the government, it was the local citizens who put in herculean efforts to save the villages, according to the residents of the region. In Bara Mollakhali, where nearly 350 feet of the embankment was washed away, the state Irrigation Department provided only 6,000 concrete bags, which were put to use with the help of community mobilisation of Left volunteers, said Dula Singh.
So far, only the breach at Bara Mollakhali has been repaired, he added. “The people who have not migrated yet are living at flood and cyclone centres in blatantly unhygienic conditions,” he said.
While government help seems a distant hope, the residents of the area are saying that they want immediate repairing of the river embankments, more than any aid. Singh also said that the marooned villagers should be compensated at the earliest. Further, if the river embankment is not repaired before the next new moon, he said, then the high tide and ebb tide will cause even more destruction in the region.