Kolkata: The residents of Sundarbans are at the receiving end of the damage from natural catastrophes again and again, because of the region's low lying geo physical features. The islands in the area get flooded during high tide and during cyclones. The river embankments break down frequently, resulting in loss of homes for a large number of locals.
Cyclone Aila had ravaged the area in 2009. Since then, several cyclones, Bulbul in 2019, Amphan in 2020, which was said to be West Bengal’s fiercest cyclone in decades, and Yaas in 2021, have disrupted the lives of the locals. Now, the people of Sundarban are demanding a permanent solution to this disruption and destruction of their lives and livelihoods.
Recently, three conventions, in three parts of Sundarbans—Canning, Raidighi, and Kakdwip—were held, where the local residents and activists highlighted their demands, which include construction of permanent river embankments, construction of pucca houses for all residents of Sundarbans, planting of mangrove forests in the low lying areas of Sundarbans, and construction of roads in the Sundarbans. The conventions were attended by a large number of people. Along with this, demands were raised for regular help to the livelihood of the people of the islands.
In these conventions, it was decided that these demands will be taken up on block and mohalla levels, and more conventions and meetings will be organised at the grassroot level. The conventions saw participation from Left Front leadership of the district. CPI(M) leaders Dr Sujan Chakraborty, Shamik Lahiri, Kanti Ganguly, Rahul Ghosh, RSP leaders Subhash Naskar and Tushar Ghosh attended the meetings.
The apathetic attitude of the Mamata Banerjee-led state government was also spoken about in the conventions. After the cyclone Aila, which had affected the region in 2009, Centre had released a sum of 5,032 crores. Following a report by a survey team, it was decided at that time that 778 km of river embankment will be concretised by utilising this sum. The aid had come in after the Left Front government had demanded money for river embankment repair and reconstruction. At that time the Left Front government was in power in the state. After a change of power in the state in the year 2011, the TMC government constructed only 78 km of river embankment, and the remaining 700 km of embankment was never completed. The leftover amount of more than 5,000 crore was returned to the Central government for lack of utilisation of the fund.
The upcoming dangers that the Sundarbans might face were also discussed in detail at the conventions. Due to greenhouse effect, the sea level is increasing by 3 centimetres per year, hence construction of permanent river embankment is a necessity and the heights of the embankments should be more than the erstwhile years. The fight to save Sundarbans is also connected with the fight for the environment, the leadership opined in the conventions.