The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fear of flood after spate of breaches

Malda/Calcutta, Aug. 21: As the government plans to take an all-party delegation to Delhi to demand funds to fight erosion, threats of flood loom over erosion-ravaged Panchanandapur.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta, on his return from Malda, said he met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and proposed that he lead a delegation to Delhi since “erosion is a national problem”.

He said the banks of the Ganga were fast eroding as the river changed its course. “If immediate measures are not taken, it would wreak havoc in Malda.”

Dasgupta said the state needed Rs 100 crore to dredge the river to make it flow on its normal course. “We are ready to share 25 per cent of the cost and the Centre should pay the rest,” the finance minister said. “If the Ganga continues to shift eastward as it’s doing now, Farakka Barrage and the Calcutta port will be endangered in the long run.”

The rising Ganga in the north Bengal district, meanwhile, has fuelled fear of flooding, which could turn out to be devastating because of six breaches in an embankment between Ghaskol and Panchanandapur.

Worried district authorities sounded an alert at Panchanandapur as the Ganga was flowing 70 cm above the danger level near Farakka. They may issue a red alert soon if the water level continues to rise.

Pundarikaksha Roy, executive engineer of the irrigation department, said 13 lakh cusec of water passed per second at Farakka Barrage today as against yesterday’s 12 lakh cusec.

The situation was compounded by the six breaches in the embankment. “There is every possibility that floodwater will gush in through the breaches and inundate the area if the water level continues to rise,” Roy said.

He said the situation was worse at Sakullapur village, where the breach was as wide as 150 metres.

Malda zilla parishad sabhadhipati Gautam Chakraborty said scared villagers have started moving out. “Erosion has stopped. But the situation remains grim. Erosion has displaced more than 10,000 people. I don’t know how many people will lose their homes if flood breaks out.”

Chakraborty said the heads of five blocks were put on alert.

The irrigation department started filling in the breaches on an emergency basis this morning. “We fear the worst, but are still trying to head it off.”

A visit to Panchanandapur reveals how hundreds of people displaced by erosion are coping. Twelve families have been living under a plastic sheeting by the side of the state highway after the Ganga gobbled up their homes on August 11.

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