| The river Barandi in Katihar. Picture by Mohan Mahato |
Farmers in the bordering areas of Purnea and Katihar have iterated their demand for government investment to fight crises in cultivation after shift in the course of the Barandi.
Heavy accumulation of silt led the Barandi to shift course around five years ago. In the absence of proper irrigation facilities, farmers in close to 40 panchayats in the two districts have found it difficult to go about their work.
Cultivation of garma rice, makhana (fox nut) and banana has taken a hit. The main reason for the river to change its course was silt at the river’s mouth near Kishantoli village of Dhamdaha sub-division in Purnea district, about 385km northeast of Patna.
The river used to be a tributary of river Kosi but after change of course, has become a tributary of Ganga. Earlier, the river would meet the Kosi at Kursela and now meets the Ganga near Dumar in Katihar. This change has severely affected farming and also leads to untimely floods in the uplands.
Niraj Yadav, a zilla parishad member from Phalka, told The Telegraph: “The change in Barandi’s course creates drought on one side and flood on the other. Before the change in the stream’s course, Barandi passed through Pothia, Dhanha, Phalka, Chandawa and Mirganj before meeting river Kosi at Kursela. After the shift, it meets Ganga after passing through Rangpura, Barkona and Dumar. During the 2005 floods, the Barandi started shifting its course and also destroyed the Kursela-Vaitarni canal adding to the problems of the farmers.
“If the government invests Rs 1 crore, or even less, farmers in over 40 panchayats in these districts would be benefited. They would be able to save the makhana and garma rice crops apart from the banana fields, which are dependent on irrigation. As a zilla parishad member, I have raised this issue several times before the government but nothing has been done yet.”
Manoj Yadav, a farmer at Phalka, said: “As the Barandi passed through our village, we were able to cultivate garma rice in the summer, but not anymore now. Makhana cultivation has also taken a hit. It is a cash crop but we cannot grow it in the absence of proper irrigation facilities. This situation is same as a drought for us. We get no help from the government too.”
Change in the river’s course has not just inconvenienced cultivation, but also led to migration. “If the government pays attention to the farmers of Purnea and Katihar districts, cultivation could have been normalised. But, the change in the river’s course has led to migration. Although the government claims of doing a lot for the development of farmers, we are suffering,” said Dhanha farmer Arjun Mandal.