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Riverine Erosion Swallows Livelihoods in West Bengal

For the past 16 years, riverine erosion by the Ghargharia river has been eating away at the land in Coochbehar’s Uttar Kaljani village, while the authorities do nothing.

All is not well in the picturesque village of Uttar Kaljani. 20 families here are severely affected by riverine erosion that is eating away at their farmlands and is now threatening to swallow their homes. This is not a recent problem either–the river has been eroding its banks for the past sixteen years. “Nothing remains in our backyard anymore. The bamboo grove, the betelnut grove, even our toilets are under the water now,” says Swapan Sarkar, an affected resident of the village.

Ghargharia river is a tributary of Torsha river that eventually flows into Bangladesh. Earlier this year another river, Dharla, in the same district of Coochbehar, made headlines when erosion along its banks destroyed 1000 homes. However, while the State Irrigation Minister promised that creation of embankments along Dharla will commence soon, no such promises allay the anxieties of those living next to Ghargharia.

“Back in 2014, I had submitted applications to the Block Development Officer, the Sub Divisional Officer and other officials, appealing for their intervention. It’s been three years and no one has come even once to inspect the situation. If they had come to take a look they would have appreciated the gravity of the situation,” adds Sarkar.

Community Correspondent Bikash Barman visited the Chief Executive Engineer of the Coochbehar Irrigation Department twice in September. It was only on the second visit that he was able to meet with the official who declined to be interviewed on camera nor was he able to give any assurances of action on part of the department. Meanwhile, Swapan Sarkar and his family along with another nineteen families continue to live in precarity. “We don’t have the money to buy land and shift elsewhere,” says Sarkar.

Please call Swapan Kumar Saha, Chief Executive Engineer of the Coochbehar Irrigation Department on +91 3582228305, and ask him to immediately start the construction of river embankments and compensate the people for the loss of land and property.

Video by Community Correspondent Bikash Barman

Article by Madhura Charkraborty, a journalist in the VV editorial team

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