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River Bank Erosion Continues to Wreak Havoc in Bengal’s Maldaha and Murshidabad

This year alone, more than 4,500 people have lost their homes to the river owing to erosion. 
River Bank Erosion Continues to Wreak Havoc in Bengal’s Maldaha and Murshidabad

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Kolkata/ Murshidabad: Left unchecked, river bank erosion and flooding have led to a catastrophic situation in Maldaha district of West Bengal. Manikchak, Baishnabnagar, Ratua, and Mothabari are facing river erosion on an unprecedented scale. In the last five years, about 12 mouzas (administrative units) have gone under the Ganges due to embankment erosion; this year, about three lakh residents, including the Maldaha town, are facing the threat of river bank erosion.

This year alone, more than 4,500 people have lost their homes to the river owing to river bank erosion. Buildings housing primary schools also met with a similar fate.

Recently, a delegation comprising Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] Politburo member MD Salim, CPI(M) MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and Sanjukta Morcha MLA Noushad Siddiqui and district Left Front convenor Ambar Mitra visited the erosion affected areas of the district. They also paid a visit to the famous ring embankment of Bhutnir Char, which guards the Maldaha City against floods. The embankment was constructed when HD Devegowda was the Prime Minister of the country.

In neighbouring  Murshidabad’s Samshergunj, the riverbank erosion has swept away more than 30 houses this year. Continuous erosion since 2020 has become a major threat for the people of Samsergunj.

The current phase of erosion started a few days back in Kamalpur village. Last year, half of Dhangara village had washed away. People are now living in local school premises without proper food and sanitation. Many people also destroyed their own houses just before the river gobbled up the land to protect the bricks and the furniture.

During the start of the monsoon season, erosion sets in these villages that are close to the river and during the end of the rainy season, it gets repeated.

Panchayat functionaries and BDO (Block District Office) officials visited the villages but refrained from helping the families affected by river erosion. Azad Seikh, an erosion-affected person, told when asked about help, BDO officials said that they had given five thousand sacks to stop river bank erosion, which happens as the river gushes in. However, the affected families are yet to get any help.

In Maldah, before constructing the Farkka barrage and the hydroelectric project, one had to cross the Ganges by boat to reach North Bengal. After the construction of the Farkka barrage in the 60s, the river flow of the main channel used to go through Maldaha, and it was joined by rivers like Koshi, Fulhar and others. 

In Murshidabad, another channel of the river used to get channelised to Bangladesh as the Padma river. The Keshkar Committee report showed that from 1931 to 1978, the amount of land falling into river bank erosion was 14,335 hectares. This year, the erosion is still continuing in Kaliachak block-3 and Manikchak block.

Every year, when the monsoon comes, the residents of this region feel a perennial sense of danger because they have seen how these erosions had taken away their homes in the past.  During the time of the Left Front government in 1996, then CM Jyoti Basu had invited PM Devegowda to Maladaha. A committee called Pritam Singh Committee was constituted and visited Maldaha. Right now, the distance between the Ganges and Fulhar river has come down to 1200 metres only, which will threaten the water flow of Ganges across states, and further river bank erosion may happen in West Bengal in all the districts nearby the rivers.

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