Malda, Sept. 8: Residents of two gram panchayats in Ratua I block have been living on machans, rooftops and embankments for the past two months after their houses were flooded by the swollen Ganga and Fulahar.
The last time Malda witnessed such a situation was in 2004 when the same Ratua block was flooded.
Around 75,000 people from Bilaimari and Mahanandatola panchayat area, comprising 30 villages, are surviving only on dry food supplied by political parties and bought from nearby shops for the past two months.
The Telegraph visited the flooded areas, 55km from here, yesterday, and found that the two gram panchayats were virtually cut off from the rest of the district.
Villagers said the roads in the area were eight to nine feet under water.
“We are surrounded by waist-deep water for over two months. Children are not able to go to school. We fetch drinking water in tin dinghies from 2km away,” said 50-year-old Belal Hossain of Bilaimari village, sitting on a machan.
The executive engineer of irrigation department, Amalendra Kumar Singh, said the water would not recede from the flooded areas unless the water level of the rivers go down.
“The areas that have been flooded are unprotected — there are no embankments along the river banks in these places. Unless the waters of both the rivers recede below 25m, the flood water will not flow out,” he said.
He added that the Fulahar was flowing at 28.4m, above the extreme danger level of 28m.
“The water in the Ganga has receded to 25.81m, below the extreme danger level of 30m. But water from the flooded areas is not flowing out as the Fulahar’s water level is still high at Mahamnandatola where the two rivers meet. The rivers are swelling up because of rainfall in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the release of water from dams and barrages in the upper reaches,” Singh said.
He added that water was being released from the Son river dam in Uttar Pradesh and barrages in Bihar.
The Congress MLA of Ratua, Samar Mukherjee, said: “We are supplying flattened rice, jaggery and bread to those affected. The areas have been flooded since the end of June. It is not possible for us to distribute relief to such a large number of people and I have been trying to draw the attention of the administration to the situation.”
Malda district magistrate G. Kiran Kumar said: “I have toured the areas by boat. We are going to shift people to safer places and provide them with food and drinking water.”