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Land hunt for flood shelter

Tamluk, Jan. 5: Work to construct a flood shelter in an inundation-prone East Midnapore island near Nandigram can’t be started because of unavailability of 0.3 acre although the government has sanctioned funds.

Sources in the district administration said the government had released half of the Rs 50 lakh required to build the three-storey shelter at Mayachar island.

“But the problem is the government does not own 0.3 acre of contiguous land in Mayachar. We don’t want to acquire land immediately because it involves some risks. We have requested the Mahishadal panchayat samiti, under whose area Mayachar falls, to identify and arrange for the land,” said Sagar Sinha, the additional district magistrate in charge of disaster management.

A district official said acquisition would “only be the last resort”.

Mayachar, an island on the Rupnarayan river, is home to around 10,000 people.

“Every monsoon, large parts of the island get flooded. Even during high tides, areas near the banks get inundated. That is why a flood shelter is required. The government sanctioned half of the funds required following a request from us. But we have to first get the land for the shelter. We don’t want to acquire land,” a district official said.

Mayachar is around 20km from Nandigram, where the Trinamul Congress had led an anti-land acquisition movement in 2007.

Raghunath Ponda, a functionary of the Trinamul-controlled Mahishadal panchayat samiti, said the rural body had appealed to Mayachar residents to either donate or sell land for the flood shelter.

“Mayachar High School has agreed to donate 0.1 acre. We require another 0.2 acre. We need villagers’ help to get the land,” said Ponda, a Trinamul leader.

Another functionary of the panchayat samiti said the plot offered by the school could be used only if land was available adjoining it. “At least 0.3 acre of contiguous land is needed,” he said.

The functionary said the panchayat samiti did not have enough cash to pay the market price of the land. “We can buy the land only if villagers selling it are willing to do so at a nominal price,” he said.

Once the three-storey flood shelter is built, it could be used as an ICDS centre and a community centre when there is no flood, Ponda said. “We can also organise health camps there,” he said.

“We have already spoken to some villagers. One of them has agreed to donate 0.1 acre while another has demanded Rs 1 lakh for 0.1 acre. We are speaking to more villagers,” Ponda added. He refused comment when asked if the two plots were adjoining the land the school had agreed to donate, saying talks were at a nascent stage.

The headmaster of Mayachar High School, Arun Kumar Maity, said the flood shelter would help the island cope with inundations every year. “We have agreed to donate 0.1 acre.”