The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Closed sluice gates flood crop

Malda, Feb. 21: Stretches of boro paddy have been flooded in Rajnagar and Hamidpur here with the Farakka barrage shutting its sluice gates.

“More than 10,000 acres of standing crop have been submerged in the Baishnabnagar police station area. If the gates are not opened immediately, it will mean disaster for many more farmers,” said local MLA Biswanath Ghosh.

The paddy and vegetables have been under water for the past 12 days.

“I had sown boro paddy on 16 bighas of land, which are now ready for harvest. But I do not know when the water will recede and after that if the crop can be harvested at all,” said Bijon Ghosh of Rajnagar village. The same fate awaits Entaz Sheikh of Lakshminagar village, who has sown paddy on 22 bighas. According to them, if the water does not recede within a week, they will be left with no other option but begging.

Yesterday, the district magistrates of Malda and Murshidabad — the two districts flanking the barrage — met the technical advisory committee at the site, but no decision was taken regarding the opening of the gates.

“The barrage authorities have told us that nothing can be done. Their hands are tied since the opening and closing of the sluice gates are decided by the Union water resources ministry,” said Malda district magistrate Chittaranjan Das.

The Farakka barrage, which was commissioned in 1974, was built to divert the water supply from the Ganga to the Bhaghirathi-Hooghly to facilitate navigation at the Calcutta port. The general manager of the barrage, Osman Ghani, said if the gates were opened now, Calcutta port will perish in the dry season. The National Thermal Power Corporation’s power plant in Murshidabad will also be affected and parts of Bangladesh will be flooded.

Not much impressed with the argument, Ghosh said: “This is the second year that paddy and vegetables have been flooded. Many might be driven to suicide if something is not done soon.”

The villagers are enraged with the barrage authorities for not opening the sluice gate even after the overflowing water has almost destroyed their crop. The situation is the same at villages in Murshidabad and adjacent Jharkhand.

The crops are cultivated on char lands, which are each 6 sq km in area. “It was fine till two years ago. The villagers were happy with the yield,” Ghosh said. “But last year, just before harvest time, the gates were once again closed, which allowed the water to overflow and flood the fields.”

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